Each of us is writing our own story every single day. We sometimes have control over what happens, but often we don't. We teach students that while they may not always get a choice in what happens, they always have control over what they think, how they act, and where they focus their attention.
We explain to students that they're writing and editing their story every single day and that what they write impacts not only them but also everyone who interacts with them. We encourage them to take ownership of their life story.
Our assemblies and online workshops show students how their choices and perceptions make their narrative unique. Peter demonstrates this by sharing how he lives confidently with a facial difference. For example, instead of calling his chapter about Goldenhar Syndrome, "Why it Stinks to have 30 Surgeries before You're 18," he's calling it "How I'm Rocking My Life as a Metal Head!"
Students are introduced to these concepts and then apply them by writing, reflecting, and analyzing their own story. After identifying their most meaningful chapters, we provide guided writing prompts that include some of the following questions.
Are you proud of your story?
Are there chapters of your story you want to edit or end?
How is your story different from your friends (even if you write about the same event)?
Is there a chapter you want to add to your story? How will you add it?
We think it's important students learn that, while you can never completely erase chapters, it's always possible to go back and edit. They will meet new people and experience things differently as they grow, and their perspectives will change.
This is why it's important to have diverse friendships and try new things. Adding new characters to our story gives us different perspectives and makes our story interesting.
Learning self-awareness and perspective teaches students to give meaning and value to their life and prioritize what's important to them.
Dede & Peter Dankelson are a mother/son team who teach social-emotional learning. Peter is 20 and was born with a craniofacial syndrome, so he's had a lot of experience feeling different! Peter shows students how he's embraced life with a facial difference, and he challenges them to reflect on their own life story.
Dede & Peter have been working with schools since 2013, encouraging kindness and inclusion. They've connected with over 40,000 students using storytelling, humor, and real-life experience. Pete's Diary teaches meaningful lessons that last a lifetime.