During an exercise in literacy class, fifth grade students realized their superpowers, and learned a little about kryptonite, as they were immersed in “The Power of Yet.”
The exercise began with two prompts, which literacy teacher Hannah Robbertz had written on the whiteboard at the start of class. One column read, “I’m good at…,” and the other, “I’m not good at..,” and students were invited to finish the statement. Slowly, they began to volunteer responses.
“I’m good at soccer,” one student said, “and I’m not good at tennis.”
The class then analyzed the actions, traits, and qualities that yield personal strengths and weaknesses. As the students discussed their ideas, a pattern began to emerge. The discussion revealed that many of their perceived skills and shortcomings were based on feedback they had received from others.
“Just because someone tells you you’re not good at something does that mean that you’re not?” Robbertz asked the students, adding “Or that you’ll never be?”
The answer was a resounding no, and Robbertz updated the second column to read, “I’m not good at…YET.”
This introduction to “The Power of Yet” began a series of lessons that would play out over the course of three days and task students with considering the difference between an activity at which they consider themselves good or bad, and the reason for their success or failure. Working in groups meant that students also had to overcome social fears in order to share their reflections. As their guards came down, their self-confidence grew, as did the bonds between them.
During the lessons, students listened to stories featuring notable figures such as Ed Shereen, Oprah Winfrey, and Walt Disney. In each story, the figure was told early in their career that they were not good enough, and in each case, they pushed past the negative comments to achieve their goals.
Students also compared growth mindsets and fixed mindsets. Robbertz read “Salt in His Shoes” by Deloris Jordan, Roslyn M. Jordan, and Kadir Nelson, which tells the story of how, as a child, Michael Jordan had to work hard to become a better basketball player. Jordan’s story further galvanized the idea that success is defined by the journey, not the result.
After hearing these stories of perseverance, students were given a printout of Superman’s signature emblem. They were asked to think of something they were good at, and then consider it their superpower and write it on the emblem. They then decorated the emblem with colored pencils and markers, making it their own. Throughout this exercise, students discussed their personal superpowers, while debating about which Marvel superhero was the strongest.
Because even Superman has his kryptonite, the students were asked to also write down things they could improve upon. Responses included brain fog, improvising, and ignoring negative comments.
When they were told that the kryptonite would be displayed on a bulletin board underneath their superpower, one student worried that sharing her weakness might lead to her being socially isolated. But several classmates said they shared the same weakness, and the revelation alleviated her fears.
“You don’t have to choose if you're good or bad,” said Zarion Sherman as he reflected on the class, “you can have your own mindset on what is right.”