I find that near the end of the semester is a great time to study the nature of work. This year we read an essay by Dorothy Sayers called “Living to Work.” The essay examines what constitutes a satisfying career. Then I had the students, as part of the journal responses due on each reading, write themselves a letter in which they pictured themselves working in the career of their choice. Finally, they wrote what they had to do this year to get there and what they had to do in five years to get there. I had them give the letters to me in stamped, self-addressed envelopes. I will add a note of my own only if they choose to leave the letters unsealed. I promised to send them their letters in six months. I was amazed at how enthusiastic the students were about the project. It definitely energized them at this point in the semester.
Here’s an example of a letter that one of my students wrote to herself:
I’m writing to tell you how much you want to be a clinical psychologist. You have been through a lot over the years and have a lot to offer those who have experienced similar things. You want to help children and teenagers adapt to life and its difficulties. You had a rough childhood and want to make the lives of other children a little easier.
In order to accomplish this dream, you’ll have to work extremely hard. During the next twelve months, your focus will be doing well in your remaining general education courses and your lower division psychology courses. Then you will graduate from LBCC with a degree in Liberal Arts, hopefully by May 2002. Then, you’ll go on to attend CSULB as a psychology major.
Once at CSULB, you will thrive in your graduate psychology courses and earn a Bachelor of Arts in clinical psychology. Then, you have to decide on either UCLA or an out of state school for your master’s and doctorate. You should have completed this goal within 8 years. You will probably be done with your thesis in 5 years, or at least on track toward accomplishing this task. If you live up to the ability I know you have, I know you can do it. You’re going to be the best therapist out there and you’ll help thousands of children cope with all kinds of obstacles. Good Luck!
–Elizabeth Hindman, Adjunct Faculty, English, El Camino College, CA