exit point

A Teenager's Identity

The end of an IMYC unit is marked with an “Exit Point”. It is opportunity for students to demonstrate what they have incorporated regarding the big idea that has underpinned the content in all of their classes for the past 8 weeks. The students are given the task of sharing their thoughts, in this case, in the form of a PowerPoint, Prezi or Keynote presentation. It is one of the few times that there is no rubric and there are no guidelines, only the instruction to share whatever is important with respect to the big idea.

So there we sit, awaiting the philosophical input of our 8th graders. One by one they stand. Their theme?

Our sense of self and that of others is continually developing through our different interactions and impacts on how we exist in the world.

 Did they make the connection? Do they realize the dynamic nature of their own identity? Do they understand that their identity will change over the years? In fact, one of them outright makes the claim, “Our identity changes. What we were like when we were 9 is different from what we are now”.

There are moments of goofiness, awkwardness, trepidation, and shyness. There’s even fear. They each address the big idea and their definition of it. But then one by one they attempt to communicate what their own identity is. Their diverse backgrounds are astounding: Hungary, Austria, South Africa, France, the UK, Holland, India, adopted from China to the U.S.A., U.S.A., Iceland, Ukraine. They are all 3rd culture kids. They each allude to this part of their self. Yet then they drive deeper. Musings of culture, sports, likes/dislikes, family, religion, and values are shared. One boy pauses before exclaiming at the end, “And this is who I am”. He has put himself out there. And it is touching.

In the end, each student has reflected on, identified, and communicated the essence of self. And that has value. It’s empowering, especially to young teenagers, to know who you are.


Image: Culture: Cultural Identity? Personality? Language? Reality?. (n.d.). ChineseBreeze Unorthodox Language Learning Blog. Retrieved September 26, 2014, from http://chinese-breeze.com/culture-cultural-identity-personality-language-reality/

IMYC Exit Point Results in an Appreciation Fest

“Now this is a ‘top secret’ project,” we tell them.  Each student breaks out into a huge grin, slyly looking around the room.  Their hands slip onto their computers eager to open them up.  “Don't tell anyone what you are writing or collaborate in anyway.  It will be a surprise for everyone when you are done.” They become agitated, their legs are swinging beneath the table in anticipation, “Can we get started?”

As part of the International Middle Years Curriculum (IMYC) our 6th grade students finished off a unit called “Balance” this past week.  Their exit point task was to create a classroom “web” identifying how each student in the grade (there are only 12 of them) brings balance to the learning experience at school.  They will be placing their name at the center of the web and then extending individual lines to each classmate notating what strengths that student contributes to the school setting. 

Before turning them loose, however, we brainstorm positive characteristics that could be included in providing balance to a learning environment.  The students put together a massive list including descriptors such as hard working, focused, helpful, collaborative, and energetic, etc. Then, students eagerly begin recording their ideas.  The ideas are transferred to a “web” that they know will be shared with the class.  They construct all sorts of interesting walls to hide their masterpieces as they glue and draw.

Finally, the day has arrived, and the students sit at tables arranged in a semicircle.  The webs are upside down in front of them, remaining a mystery.   After a brief introduction the students are instructed to turn over their webs.  They all stand and have the opportunity to walk around the ordered tables reading the webs.  A hush blankets the room.  I feel like I’m observing a group at a major art exhibit.  They are thoroughly studying the documentation before them. Following their time with the posters, they are given a set of reflective questions in which they immediately immerse themselves in response. They exude satisfaction and confirmation. 

What began as an exercise to help them see how each person contributes to the class turned into a huge appreciation fest where everyone was handed a confidence boost.  It’s human nature, isn’t it?  A desire for appreciation.  A hope for recognition.  Opportunity to focus on the strengths and good in others is probably essential in just about every organization out there.  How can we foster a more appreciative environment wherever we are but particularly in schools?


Students worked in groups of 3 or 4 to prepare a musical number that they could present to parents, staff and peers.  As we neared performance day, class time was given from other classes enabling students to perfect their number.  One group actually composed their own piece.  Others created arrangements for known pieces and several prepared a familiar song, as the populace knows it.

This morning they nervously waited their turn on stage but each group, as soon as they began their performance, appeared to proceed with ease.  It was amazing.  Drums, keyboard, vocal, and guitar – they tackled it all.  Then, the judges posed questions to the group that centered on the International Middle Years Curriculum (IMYC) theme that pertained to their group (either adaptability, competition, or community) and related to their band experience.  They consulted with each other and answered individually providing reflective insight as to how these themes related to them.

I was asked to be a judge.  I settled in on “Vicki Pinaj” and in preparation I viewed several video clips of Nicki Minaj as a judge on American Idol.  I secured a blue wig from a colleague and some outrageously long, hot pink, feathery earrings from my daughter.  I purchased some fake eyelashes (a first for me) to top off my costume.  This morning it took me about 40 minutes to put those silly things on my eyes, and I was only successful after recruiting the help of my daughter and her friend.  However, once I was properly outfitted, I walked into that room with a whole new attitude.  It was so fun!  I truly enjoyed displaying an alter ego.

The best part of the morning was watching these courageous middle school students stand up to perform.  Furthermore, the music was actually good and enjoyable to listen to.  One parent said, “This is such an amazing feature of this school – that this was a safe enough place for all of these students to rise and perform was incredible”.  She continued to reiterate how rare and amazing it was.  I have to agree.  The scene today was special and it was largely possible because of the family like atmosphere generated at our small school.

Should we repeat the event again next year?  Absolutely!  Parents, staff, and students were thrilled with the outcome.