Helping Adults Remember Our Youth


‎”There is in you what is beyond you.” 
Paul Valéry

Every one of us was a young person, and from that place we can all relate to children and youth better than we do right now. Just as there is not a young person in this whole world who cannot be engaged, there is no adult in this world who is wholly and completely incapable of becoming engaged with young people.

This is because of the same reality French poet Valéry was alluding to above. All young people and all adults, everyone in this world, is inherently engaged in an eternal dance of society, propagating and critiquing and expanding and evolving the infinite potential of the world we share. Martin Luther King, Jr. talked about this, too, when he said, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” 


The opportunity of our lifetimes is to learn and build ways to consciously, creatively, and meaningfully grow this “inescapable network of mutuality” throughout our society with purpose and intention. Helping ourselves become conscientious of the threads we sew in the “single garment of destiny” is the large part of this learning. After we’ve done that we can begin to help others do the same. All children and youth can help their younger sisters and brothers, siblings, and adults learn about the “single garment of destiny”. All adults can learn about that garment, too, and help others learn about the inescapable network of mutuality” we are all part of.


We all share this responsibility, which is one of the greatest we have in our lives. What are you going to do today?


Here’s a reflection activity I use to help adults reconnect with their experiences as young people. 

Remembering Our Youth
Time required: 20-45 minutes
Needed: Quiet room
Before you start. I’ve found this guided reflection to be done best with participants age 12 through elder. As with any good learning activity, adjust as needed. Begin the reflection by reading the following at a comfortable, relaxed pace. Your tone should be quiet and calming, and you should give people time to bring up the images in their heads and really remember them. You can add to or subtract from this script as needed.
To start: Begin by asking each group to sit down and get comfortable. Explain that you will lead them through a reflection activity that sends them back in time to when they were teenagers. Ask them to close their eyes. Then ask them to imagine that its [today’s date] during their ninth grade year in school. If the group consists of people who work primarily with one age group (e.g., fourth graders) use that school year. Otherwise chose a year in school for them. A year in middle or high school works best.
Questions to ask: Continue by reading the following, slowly:
  • “Think about getting up in the morning.
  • What time is it?
  • Does someone wake you up? Who?
  • Do you get up easily or is it a pain?
  • What is your morning routine? Do you take a shower, bath, or do your hair?
  • What do you wear?
  • Are you ready in a few minutes? An hour?
  • Who else is around in the morning? Do you have to help anyone else get ready?
  • When you leave for school, how do you get there? Bus, drive, get a ride, walk, bike? Do you go with others?
  • What does the school building look like? How do you feel about the place?
  • What do you do when you first get inside? Do you go to your locker? Hang out with friends? Who are your friends? How do you feel about them?
  • What is your first class of the day? Who teaches it? Do you like the subject? Do you like the teacher? What are your favorite classes?
  • What classes do you dislike? Why?
  • What about lunch? Where do you eat? What did you eat? Do you have any meetings?
  • Now it is the end of the school day. Do you play a sport, have an activity, have a job, do your homework, hang out with friends?
  • What adults do you encounter after school? coaches, advisors, administrators, or bosses?
  • When do you get home?
  • Do you eat dinner with your family?
  • Do you do homework, or pretend to do homework? Do you watch TV? Talk on the phone?
  • What time do you go to bed? How do you feel at the end of the day?

Reflection: After a long, deliberate pause, ask participants to return to the present and open their eyes. Tell them you understand that the exercise may have reminded them of some painful or personal memories, and perhaps of some humorous ones, too. Reassure them that no one will be forced to share, but that you’re going to ask them to join in pairs and take a moment to share general reactions. 
Asking questions: When they are in pairs, give them 2-3 debriefing questions they can discuss with their partner. They can include:
  • What do you remember most vibrantly from this reflection?
  • What do you think is the greatest difference between your ninth grade year and the experience of a ninth grade student today?
  • What do you think is most similar?
  • Who were the adults in your life after school?
  • What are your best teacher like? Worst?

When each pair is done, have a large group conversation about the activity and ask participants to share what they’ve discovered. When you are finished, if time permits allow participants to journal alone for a moment on the following questions: 

  • What was good about being young? 
  • What was not good about being young? 

Close the activity by reminding participants that we all have different experiences, and none are better or worse than others- just different.

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

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