Jun 01, 2018 Postcard to Your Future Self
The Postcard to Your Future Self is one of my favorite reflective activities because it encourages learners to reflect on their strengths, celebrates their accomplishments, and clarify their goals. The postcard gives them a tangible reminder of their learning experience for the future. I regularly use this as a closing reflection activity in my workshops.
At the end of a workshop or course, participants write down on their postcard at least one thing they learned from the workshop activities or through a conversation with a peer that they don’t want to forget. I then ask them to write a commitment to themselves around changing, improving, or trying something new in their practice as an educator. I send the postcards as a reminder a few months later. Many workshop and training attendees later report to me that the card arrived on “just the right day” to remind them of a personal strength, lesson, or goal.
- Ask participants to choose a postcard that represents a strength they bring to their group or team, or one that represents an essential learning they are taking away from the experience.
- Have them find a quiet place to reflect and write a postcard to their future self that includes the following:
- A reminder of their strength or idea that inspired them to choose the postcard.
- A key lesson they are taking from the experience that they don’t want to forget.
- A commitment to their future self
- Ask them to self-address the postcard and leave them with you to send at a future date.
(Note: for discounted bulk postcard orders to use for this activity email me at firstname.lastname@example.org)
End of the School Year Reflection Example:
More than a decade ago I started using this technique at the end of the school year with Amanda Dixon, and her 8th-grade language arts and the tradition has continued and spread to other classrooms. We invited students to pick a postcard that represented their strengths or positive character traits (we used the “Postcard Strengths” activity described in my previous post to celebrate and affirm these strengths in their classroom community).
Following the “Postcard Strengths Activity,” we asked them to think about an important social or life lesson they learned during the past school year that would be important to remind themselves of in September when they reach high school. The students then wrote a note addressed to themselves that included this lesson and a commitment for the future. After students finished writing, we met with them individually to talk about the lessons learned and personal responsibility as an exit interview for the year. We sent the postcards to students in early September at the start of their 9th-grade year.
Two of the prompts we used:
• What is a valuable lesson you learned in middle school that you don’t want to forget and that you think will help you in the future?
• What is one commitment you are willing to make to your 9th-grade self?
A lesson I learned in middle school is:
“I’ve learned that being popular and just being yourself are two different things. My hope for next year is to try my hardest and to just be friendly and true.”
“… to be a better listener. When I get overwhelmed, I start talking more than listening, which can annoy others and make for a stressful day.”
“… to ask for help when I need it. At the beginning of the year, I had a really hard time in math and became very frustrated. I was too shy and embarrassed to ask for help. One day Ms. D invited me to try homework club, and she helped me understand what I was missing. It made me realize that being confused at times is part of learning and that I need to speak up when I don’t understand something. In high school, this is going to be even more important. My commitment to myself is to take things one step at a time.”
Stories from the field:
The editor-in-chief of a periodical used my postcards as a tribute to her boss, who was retiring from an organization that he founded 40 years ago. She asked board and staff members to pick a card that brought to mind one thing their boss had taught them or that exemplified him. She photographed the postcards for a PowerPoint® presentation. As each slide came up, the person who picked the image shared why they had selected it. It worked wonderfully. She planned to follow up by asking them to write a note on the back of their cards to send to him over the next few weeks (see my last post Postcard Strengths and Appreciations Activity).