Power of Vision… Beyond 20/20

Teacher and girl modeling clay

“In order to carry a positive action we must develop here a positive vision.” – Dalai Lama

We start each of our 25 minute workshops with a quote that relates to the topic of the week and, for my first life/success skills workshop, we’re focusing on vision. However, before I delve into the nuts and bolts with what I plan on doing with my young folk, let me paint a picture for you: about the program I’m a part of; the school I’m placed in; a brief snap shot of the youth I’m working with; and the structure of the workshops I’m responsible for facilitating.

I’m in a brand new program started this year at the University of Portland called the Open School MAT Residency Program. It is a two year program that is seeking to change the way teachers/educators are trained to operate within schools by partnering students with the Open School, a private alternative school in East Portland, to get grounded in their program model (Academics + Equity + Advocacy = Success) while simultaneously going through UP’s Equity Certificate program. The first year of the program I am working closely with the Open School to focus in on my ability to serve as a youth advocate and will transition into full time student teaching during the second year of the residency.

The Open School is unlike any school I’ve ever been a part of. The staff is highly dedicated, persistent, committed, passionate and are continuously positioning themselves as learners to motivate themselves to always improve and I’m definitely inspired being in their presence. The Open spends a great amount of energy building a culture of success within a population of young people that have often been told that they’ll be anything BUT successful. It’s a tough battle, one that takes a lot of heart and consistency and I’m excited to be here doing this work because it is urgent.

The youth we serve are mostly students of color, low-income students and students who have been identified as being at-risk of dropping out of high school. We recruit these students into our private alternative school when kids are transitioning from 6th-7th grade; connect them with an advocate who works with a group of 10-15 youth and their parents; and begin the initial work of meeting each student where they’re at to ensure they’re able to achieve success within our community.

Within the school, my role this year is to primarily get some training and experience around their advocacy model (e.g. learning how restorative justice looks within a school; practicing the ability to empower students with choice, etc.) and additionally I am responsible for, as I mentioned, twice weekly 25 minute skills based workshops. Below is an overview of my plan.


Content: We will go over the concept of vision and how we can use a vision for ourselves and our future as a tool to help us shape our goals and inform the decisions we make in the now: like a sculptor who envisions her piece before she takes off her first piece of marble; or an athlete who envisions themselves holding the trophy that is the pinnacle of their sport.

Process: Students will have a brief discussion on a quote by the Dalai Lama to begin the workshop (see quote above for reference); students will then participate in an experiential activity to witness for themselves the power of vision (see end of blog for instructions); next, students will converse with partners to talk about what they experienced during the activity and what they think that means about vision; finally, students will be given time to listen to some soft music while crafting a vision for themselves.

Product: Students will produce dialogue on what they think vision could mean and their experiences of vision in addition to vision “leaves” they will be creating at the end of the workshop that represent the visions they have for themselves that will be added to a vision tree. Choice is extremely important in the creation of the leaves because youth have the power to decide what shape their vision can take, so long as it can be easily understood by others. That means students can write a sentence on their leaf, draw a picture, write a poem, create a bullet point list, or any other unique manifestation of this activity so long as it is easily comprehended by those who will see it.

Evaluation: The quality of conversation and student engagement is one way the activity will be evaluated and the leaves each students produce can be evaluated to ensure they participated.

There you have my plan for my 25 minute workshop (which is WAY too short to do this conversation justice honestly) AND I am going to make it work. Check out the step by step instructions for the experiential activity below. Thanks for reading!

Vision Exercise:

  1. Instruct each student to find some personal space around the room standing up. They should be able to easily move their arms around without touching anyone or anything.
  2. Inform students that we are going to conduct an experiment to determine how far each individual can turn themselves around without moving their feet.
  3. Have students firmly plant their feet approximately shoulder width apart. Next, have them point their arm and index finger straight out, directly in front of them. Then have each student turn their arm/finger as far around as possible (if they’re pointing with their right finger, they should be moving their arm to the right).
  4. Tell each student to identify a visual marker to remember where their finger has landed when they feel like they’ve gone as far as they possibly can.
  5. Have students recenter themselves while still standing in their spot. Have the room get quiet, and instruct students to close their eyes. With their eyes closed, ask each student to envision the spot in the room where their finger landed and then encourage them to envision themselves going BEYOND where they landed the first time. Whether it’s a few inches or a foot doesn’t matter, just go BEYOND where they stopped originally and pick a new spot to aim for.
  6. Once each student appears ready, have them stretch as far as they can again and see how many people go further this time! In my past experiences facilitating this activity, easily 95% of participants go beyond their original end point with the help of a vision and the other 5% at least get back to where they originally landed.
  7. Ask some questions about what students noticed, what do they think helped them go further, could this be applied to other areas of their life, etc.
  8. Enjoy 🙂

Image Credit:
Title: Teacher and girl modeling clay
Contributor Names: Fenn, Albert, photographer
Created / Published1942 July.
Library of Congress: LC-USW3- 005976-E [P&P]