I stumbled on the ‘Just Do It’ Nike commercial on Instagram and after watching it almost a million times, I knew I had to share it with my 7th grade class who are currently reading a memoir authored by a Malawian called The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. The motivation-packed advert features stars like Serena Williams, Coilin Kaepernick, Lebron James and Usain Bolt. Students are generally excited when their teachers appraise something they consider cool and so seeing the video and being able to spot some of their favourite celebrities threw the class into a frenzy. They watched the video over and over again, but while doing this, I made sure they do not miss the learning I intended by asking them the questions below:

  1. What do you see on the screen?
  2. How does it relate to you or your experience?
  3. What lessons do you learn from it?
  4. What other thoughts do you have?

The students’ meaningful responses led us into discussing how to beat stereotypes, why dreams are important, the essence of believing in oneself even when everyone else doubts you, the ability in disability, why a person’s origin or background is no excuse and lots more. They were also able to connect their realities to the stories of these stars as shown on the ad and I closed the session with a writing task where I asked the kids three important questions:

  1. What is that great thing that burns your heart but you’re afraid to do?
  2. What are you passionate about and how do you think you can turn that into a life worth living or a career that will inspire others?
  3. What are some of the steps you think you can take starting from today towards turning your dream into reality?

I encouraged them to be honest in their writing and bare themselves. It was a delight watching the students write out their dreams and when they finished, they sealed the papers and I put them away in a folder. Our agreement was that at the end of the school year, we will open them up and find out how many steps they had taken towards achieving their dreams.

This is a perfect activity for the first week of school, although it can be done any other time. It gives students the sense that they matter, that their dreams are valid and generally motivates them towards being better versions of themselves because education shouldn’t always be about passing examinations. If you haven’t seen the video, you totally should. Check here.

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