SCCS Juniors and Seniors Contemplate Their Life’s Legacy through Creative Literature 

This week, Juniors and Seniors in Shannan Smith’s American Literature class completed a unique, creative assignment in which they studied poetry to assess their life’s legacy, created a visual ‘quilt’ to portray their reflections and presented to their classmates.

“As these students are finishing their high school careers, I frequently encourage them to grow in their maturity, to pause and consider what they will leave as a legacy or gift for those whom they love or others who may benefit from what they can impart whether that be a tangible item or words of wisdom,” shares Smith. “This reflection gives students the chance to consider that what they do or say matters. I want my students to think outside what’s currently in front of them and look at a full scope of the possibilities in their lives and how it affects others.”

Students completed this assignment while reflecting on two Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poems that he wrote in light of death. Longfellow wrote the first poem, ‘A Psalm of Life’, at age 31 after the death of his first wife who was carrying their child. In this poem, Longfellow clings to the hope of the afterlife and spurs his readers to understand that this earthly life is not the ‘end all’. He encourages us to labor diligently in hard work, while leaving a footprint on life for those left here after us. In the second poem, ‘The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls’, Longfellow is 70 years old and contemplating his second wife’s death. He reflects on the footprint he has left for others.

“As we learned about Longfellow’s journey through these two poems, we see that as he nears the end of his life, he is at peace and ready for the afterlife,” continues Smith. “This is an encouraging reminder that we want to hear those words from Matthew 25:23 when we come before the Lord, ‘Well done good and faithful servant’!“

This creative assignment upholds and promotes SCCS’s commitment to academic excellence and spiritual development as students were asked to creatively reflect on their lives and how they are making an impact on others. Students tackled learning skills of public speaking and creative writing/presentation.

“As Christians, we are to consider God’s plans first and, secondly how we fit into His master plan that He has set before us. If academia is set for our students’ future because God ordained it, then students should be considering their impact on the environment around them,” continues Smith. “Collegiate levels of thinking require students to think outside the box, finding solutions, considering the past and hopefully working with a team in being more innovative toward a better future for society.”

Smith encourages her students to explore various types of literature, including poetry. 

“Poetry is not straightforward; it contains many layers and facets, usually without direct meanings,” shares Smith. “Depending on an individual’s perceptions, due to their life experience lens, a poem can take on various meanings for a student. Poetry is similar to lyrics in that it can be written to inspire, find beauty, provoke thought, challenge and even worship our Creator.”