Students attended a presentation by Alvin Law. Alvin was born without arms, due to a (now banned) prescription medication that his birth mother was given while pregnant. Alvin uses his story to challenge audiences to rewrite the negative stories they tell themselves—about themselves. For more information About Alvin, visit: https://alvinlaw.com/about/
After the assembly, students responded to what they had heard, prompted by questions including:
One of Alvin’s many strengths is the way he gets us to think about how we view ourselves. Comment on why it is so important to rethink and reevaluate the stories we tell ourselves.
Comment on Alvin’s assertion that: “We all have obstacles in life. It is ultimately our attitude that determines whether they block our path to success or strengthen us on our journey.”
Define Privilege. Describe, as many ways as you can think of and remember, the ways in which Alvin was, or could have been, disadvantaged by society.
Describe the ways that Alvin has shown perseverance and resilience throughout his life, despite his lack of privileges.
Alvin states that first impressions are important, but it’s the final impression that matters the most. Did your impression of him change as the assembly progressed?
Was there anything else that surprised you about today’s presentation?
What are you still wondering about or thinking about, after today’s assembly?
The teacher then prompted students to write about their own stories:
Describe a “negative” story that you either currently tell yourself or have told yourself in your past. For example, negative self-talk or negative stories sometimes sound like: “I can’t do this” or “I’ll never be that…”
After you describe this negative narrative, explain how can you reword that narrative so that you speak about yourself in a much more positive way? You might want to think about what IS possible.
Finally, conclude your response with a connection to an “I can” statement that best fits, and explain why this “I can statement” can be connected and reflected on here.
Student Work Sample
Student Two Response
Prompt: One of Alvin’s many strengths is the way he gets us to think about how we view ourselves. Comment on why it is so important to re-think and re-evaluate the stories we tell ourselves.
Student Response: The stories that we tell ourselves are often complex and filled with layers and layers of different perspectives. When we re-think these stories, we are able to discover things that we might not have paid attention to the first time. By reflecting on our own past and stories, we gain knowledge on how to improve our own selves, instead of focusing on others. In other words, instead of judging other people, we can look within us for a better attitude.
Prompt: Comment on Alvin’s assertion that: “We all have obstacles in life. It is ultimately our attitude that determines whether they block our path to success or strengthen us on our journey.” Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Why?
Student Response: I agree with this statement, because many things in life are all a result of perspective. Someone’s attitude towards something could drastically change their success at it, because it determines how they will treat the problem. A positive attitude creates confidence and clears the path for more opportunities, as opposed to a negative mindset. This creates a mental block that can very well limit yourself without even knowing it. Everyone has the internal choice to have a good attitude, and to choose how they wish to face their problems.
Prompt: Define Privilege. Describe, in as many ways as you can think of and remember, the ways in which Alvin was, or could have been, disadvantaged by society.
Student Response: Privilege is a right that is granted to and is only available to specific people or groups. This is apparent sometimes depending on race, gender, or ethnicity. In Alvin’s case, he was born without arms. Rarely is being born with all your limbs seen as a privilege, but it is one in the grand scheme of things. Alvin was disadvantaged by society because he was born into circumstances that he could not control. Without arms and growing up around a time where not many people were accepting of ‘special needs’ children, he struggled with his own self-image and path in life. His birth parents rejected him, and he would have led a very different life if not for his adopted parents.
Prompt: Describe the ways that Alvin has shown perseverance and resilience throughout his life, despite his lack of privilege.
Student Response: Alvin has overcome many of the struggles he faced in school, from not knowing what to do in life to hating his own appearance and limitations. However, he did not let this stop him; by carrying a positive attitude with him in life he learned to be a whole new person. He learned to play piano with his feet, despite the piano teacher saying his toes were too short. He learned to play drums and didn’t let his struggles in sports stop him. He kept his mind open to any possibility of a way to change his life. He was patient and trusted in himself.
Prompt: Alvin states that first impressions are important, but it’s the final impression that matters the most. Did your impression of Alvin change as the assembly progressed? Explain.
Student Response: My impression of Alvin changed quite a bit as the assembly went on. In the beginning, when I saw that he had no arms, I figured he was a motivational speaker who would lecture us on the importance of never giving up or a similar moral. His incredibly cheerful and easy-going attitude led me to believe that he had a simple and a relatively ‘easy’ childhood. However, I did not anticipate the richness of the stories he told us, and definitely not the tragedy. I was honestly surprised at how well he has coped with disadvantages in his life and was feeling more educated by the end of the assembly.
Reflecting on the story I tell myself and Personal Awareness and Responsibility
When I struggle with school, with balancing my extracurriculars and time management, I sometimes develop a negative mindset. I think, ‘I can’t finish all this work’, or ‘I’m going to fail this test’. I get overly anxious and try to avoid the problem by looking at something else, oftentimes unrelated to my schoolwork. Procrastination is one of the struggles I am trying to overcome. I can word this sentiment in a more positive way by assuring myself that I will get my work done. For example, ‘I will study productively, and I will know all the material on the test’, instead of only thinking about getting a good grade. I can also try to visualize success, which sometimes works for me as it calms me down. The ‘I can’ statement I connect with most is: “I am aware of my personal journey and reflect on my experiences as a way of enhancing my well-being and dealing with challenges.” I connect with this statement because I often reflect on what I can do to improve my study habits. When I deal with challenges, I am ‘aware of my personal journey’. I remind myself of the work needed to be done, and act accordingly.
I can look within myself, identify places that need improvement and develop those areas. I take responsibility for my own decisions for my learning and ask for help if I need it. I can develop social skills by relating to peers and respectfully interacting with them. I develop my own ideas to be shared with the world, inspired by examples around me.
I recognize my value and advocate for my rights. I take responsibility for my choices, my actions, and my achievements.
I have valuable ideas to share. I am willing to explore controversial issues, and I can imagine and work toward change in myself and in the world. I can set priorities; implement, monitor, and adjust a plan; and assess the results. I take responsibility for my learning, seeking help as I need it. I use strategies for working toward a healthy and balanced lifestyle, for dealing with emotional challenges, and for finding peace in stressful times. I know how to find the social support I need.
I can identify my strengths and limits, find internal motivation, and act on opportunities for self-growth. I take responsibility for making ethical decisions.
I am aware of my personal journey and reflect on my experiences as a way of enhancing my well-being and dealing with challenges. I can advocate for myself in stressful situations. I can take the initiative to inform myself about controversial issues and take ethical positions. I take ownership of my goals, learning, and behaviour. I act on what is best, over time, in terms of my goals and aspirations. I recognize the implications of my choices and consult with others who may be affected by my decisions. I can identify my potential as a leader in the communities I belong to. I sustain a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
I can advocate and take action for my communities and the natural world. I expect to make a difference.
I am aware of how others may feel and take steps to help them feel included. I maintain relationships with people from different generations. I work to make positive change in the communities I belong to and the natural environment. I can clarify problems or issues, generate multiple strategies, weigh consequences, compromise to meet the needs of others, and evaluate actions. I value differences; I appreciate that each person has unique gifts. I use respectful and inclusive language and behaviour, including in social media. I can advocate for others.