The first time I taught VALUES in a writing class, I told my students to go home and write down as many strong experiences as they could think of in their lives. Next to each, they were to write out a strong reversal that was closely related to each strongly positive or strongly negative experience and based on further experiences from their lives or from the lives of people they personally knew.
I provided several examples on the white board so they would be sure to understand, and we discussed those a bit. And I explained that the assignment was to help them identify material they could write about in the several types of essays they would be completing throughout the course of the class. They seemed to ‘get it.’
However, before the next class period, two unhappy students came to see me. They were having trouble finding values in their lives that they could reverse.
The first student, Jared, stood in front of my desk and said, ‘I don’t see what you mean by positive and negative values in my life. I guess I’ve got a stable but boring life,’ he laughed.
I laughed, too, and responded, ‘Well, how are your experiences, your relationships, at home? What are the values-really positive, really negative? Just so-so, nothing to brag about or complain about?’
‘Just so-so, I guess. We get along okay, actually. No real problems. Nothing really wonderful, either, I guess.’
I chuckled and said, ‘Okay, I know what you mean. What about your health? How’s that? Great shape, bad shape-what?’ Rank My Writer
Jared offered, ‘Well, my health’s okay, too, I guess.’ He paused. ‘There is one thing, though.’ He looked down at his feet. ‘I’ve got diabetes, but it’s under control. I eat right and take my insulin at the right times. No big deal.’
I smiled and replied, ‘I think you might have something to write about there, Jared. So how do you think most people look at or view or value diabetes, what are their overall expectations about diabetes-do they view it positively or negatively?’
He looked off into the distance, out the window, and said, ‘Actually, my friends kid me about all the great food I can’t eat any more, like hot fudge sundaes. But, you know what?’ Jared seemed a bit defensive, and he got a bit animated and energetic at this point. ‘Because I watch what I eat, I eat better than they do, and I take better care of myself because of my diabetes. In twenty years, I betcha I’ll be in much better shape than they’ll be in!’
‘Bingo! You’ve got it, Jared! While most people see diabetes as a very negative value and have negative expectations about it, you value it as an experience that makes you discipline yourself so that you take better care of your body, and you’ll be better off in the long run for it!’