Foundations for Planning
- How can I be the best “me” this year? In class, at home, on the playground, etc?
- What resources support/enable/inspire my growth?
- How do I grow as a result of the Jewish calendrical cycle?
- What are my goals for myself and how can I set a path towards achieving those goals?
- How can people cope with external difficulties in life?
- Why do we tend to repeat the same mistakes in our life?
- What is the role of self-reflection and personal responsibility in making changes in our life?
Portia (Betty May) Nelson was an American singer, actress, and poet (1920-2001). The poem “Autobiography in Five Short Chapters” appears in her book There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk. As the poem’s title suggests, it is presumably based on experience in her own life,...
Portia (Betty May) Nelson was an American singer, actress, and poet (1920-2001). The poem “Autobiography in Five Short Chapters” appears in her book There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk. As the poem’s title suggests, it is presumably based on experience in her own life, including her battle with cancer. The poem has become particularly popular in personal empowerment groups and books.
The poem features a person who keeps repeating the same mistake (falling into a deep hole) and describes the process they make to change their habits. The poem also examines the external difficulties we face and ways we can cope with these. Together with the students we will examine the process the person undergoes in the different verses of the poem.
Click here to view our consolidated list of suggested interactive pedagogies for classroom discussion.
- Describe the process the speaker in the poem undergoes: what can we learn from this process?
- Try to see the process the speaker undergoes in the poem as a form of cheshbon nephesh, soul-searching. How does soul-searching help the process of adjusting habitual actions?
- In what situations in your life have you encountered “holes” along the way, but you were able to change things by yourself rather than waiting for your surroundings to change? (Suggestions: difficulties in studies, social confrontations, family arguments, emotional and personal difficulties following a specific incident, etc.)
- Ask the students to think about an obstacle or “hole” they sometimes fall into in their lives and would like to learn to avoid. What negative habits do they have? What things do they find hard to overcome? What mistakes do they keep on making in their behavior with others or with themselves?
Next each student will draw five squares on a blank sheet of paper, and in each square draw one of the verses in the poem. The drawing can be detailed or very simple and schematic. In each square the students should write the process they need to go to in order to overcome a bit more the habit or mistake they thought of.
- Ask the students to suggest what conclusions they draw from the poem (if they find this difficult, you could suggest: it’s possible to learn from our mistakes; change doesn’t happen overnight; it’s not easy to change our habits…)
- Design a poster with a slogan based on one of these themes. You can use a digital tool such as Canva to design the poster.
- Study the passage The Shofar – An Alarm Clock, which describes the way the sounds of the shofar awaken us to soul-searching.
- Look at Rodin’s sculpture The Thinker, which depicts a man deep in thought. What body language do we use when we are engaged in soul-searching?
- Read the story A Retrieved Reformation by O. Henry, which features a man who wants to make a change in his life.