“Thursday at Horace Mann,” by UI Junior Joe Ryken

Thursday at Horace Mann

            It was my day to lead the writing activity at Horace Mann and I decided to do an exercise I had done when I was little that I really enjoyed. I wanted the kids to write a letter to their future selves, 10 or so years down the road. This instruction in itself, I felt, could pose a bit confusing for the young writers, since it is a bit of an abstract concept. In order to help them get started I had them write out lists of their favorite things: colors, foods, people, activities, etcetera. This, I thought, might help generate some things to tell this future self to remember. The writers did great with their lists, not only writing what they liked, but reasons why and pictures to go with their lists. Once they had all of their favorites, I had them write about a mentor or someone they look up to. I hoped that between their favorites and the characteristics of their mentor, they could now start thinking about what they wanted to tell themselves 10 years into the future. The letters turned out great, some informing their future selves, some communicating things they wish to stay the same, and some saying things they hope to be different. The thing I like most about this activity is it takes into account things you cherish now and puts them in perspective when looking at what you hope to accomplish in the future, and any future is possible in writing.

Editor’s Note: Joe Ryken is a junior at the University of Iowa, a talented hip hop artist, and a graduate of Iowa City’s own Horn Elementary. In his personal essay on the power of creative thinking for “Writing with Purpose,” he wrote something that will stick with me: “I think back to those days when I was young and really cherish my imagination. We would all be really cheap dates if all you had to do was get together and pretend you were something else.” Amen.

Joe did not authorize this particular biographical note, and it can be revised according to his wishes at a moment’s notice (though we like it as is).

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