I'm not sure words can really capture what I felt while there with these amazing kids, but here is a sprinkling, that may give you a hint of what I felt: awe-inspired, hopeful, invigorated, grateful, energized.
I'm not going to lie...FEAR was there too. Fear has a way of making sure it is not left out. But really, this bully came in the form of anticipatory anxiety...pretty much for the entire week before. I hate fear! It's an energy sucker and some other things...that I will refrain from saying...BUT, there is a positive side to it (sometimes). This anxiety is what propelled me into the practice, practice, practice mode...leading to lots of tweaking, modifying, rearranging, etc...in hopes of getting this thing to its best...for these teens.
Once I saw the faces of these kids, fear actually melted away and I was rocketed into teacher mode, and so excited to have the opportunity to DO THIS! I mean, come on...just look at these faces....
In brief, this is how it went down:
I introduced myself. I did a little "interactive" question type thing, to get them engaged ("Raise your hand if you brush your teeth everyday?"...Thank you David (my little brother) for that brilliant idea!). I asked them to be thinking throughout my presentation about the things that stand out as extremely important and possibly life saving (prompting). Then came Dear 16 Year Old Me...OF COURSE!
I told them my story (using My Herstory of Melanoma). I told of what my life is like now- the doctor appointments, the biopsies, the waiting (FEAR), the life long roller coaster ride.
I knew at that point they may be getting a little, "Ugh...she's old, I'm not...this shit is not going to happen to me...I'm YOUNG."...So, this is when I brought in the YOUNG faces of melanoma. And of course, I brought Jillian with me. And Steve . Both of them live on by the impact they are making everyday!
There were lots of questions at this point, so we took time to explore their questions. They were so engaged and curious, and wanting to KNOW. For me, this is the most thrilling part of doing this- hearing from them! They wanted to know about the healing of my foot, my eye...They wanted to know about moles they had on their bodies...They were internalizing this information...making it personal!
It was at this point, I turned the focus from "here's what can and does happen" to "here's what YOU CAN DO!"....This slide (in the power point) was a list of 10 things you can do to protect yourself. It was time to get them reengaged with the smart-board, so I asked for volunteers to read from this list of 10 things. It's empowering to know there ARE things we CAN do to help keep us safe.
And then came REAL TALK....
Yep...you knew that was coming! I thought that after hearing about the 10 things, and the A, B, C, D, E rule, they would need their ears perked up...and that is what happened when I talked about melanoma developing in the vagina, on the penis, in the scrotum, in the butt. YES, I really did say all that. Why not?! It's REAL! It needs to be known!
I included talk of Bob Marley, the fact that melanoma does not care what race you are...We talked tanning beds. And we talked of ways teens can creatively become involved in spreading the sun safety message...
The teen in this video goes to the high school in which I was speaking!
We wrapped up with any last questions, and then a mini-survey for them to fill out. This was an anonymous, 3 question form (2 of the 3 questions were yes/no types). Their responses were remarkable! Check them out! Read what THEY had to say...click...Teen Responses.
It was an incredible afternoon, to say the least! I want to give a huge shout out to Mr. Reed, for inviting me into his classes...and to ALL of the amazing teens I got to meet! YOU GUYS ROCK!