What Is the Impact of My Decisions?

From Women and Girls Lead, Vol. 3: Women, Girls, & the Criminal Justice System collection, lesson plan 4 of 7

Time: (90 minutes + assignment)

Essential Question: How have your decisions impacted others?

Film modules and activities adapted from the film Troop 1500

Purpose of the Lesson: Successful violence prevention and restorative justice programs aim to help people acknowledge the harm they have done to others. This helps build empathy, an essential quality needed to reach one’s full potential. In this lesson, students will be asked to consider how some of their decisions have negatively impacted others.

Objectives: * Examine the impact that crime and negative behaviors have on others * Analyze decisions that had a positive impact and those that had a negative impact on someone * Write from another perspective to explore the impact our decisions have on others * Practice using a formal decision-making process for making important personal decisions

Skills: Stating and supporting opinions in class discussion and in writing; critical listening and viewing; role-playing; writing; systematic decision making; note taking; oral presentation

Materials: Note: All Teacher and Student Handouts can be downloaded by clicking on “Download materials” button at the left of this page * Film module 4: What Is the Impact of My Decisions? (can be streamed or ordered on DVD for free) * Equipment to show film modules * Whiteboard/markers or chalkboard/chalk * Troop 1500 discussion guide * Sheet of paper * Student Handout C: Decision-Making Worksheet * Download of audio file of the National Public Radio (NPR) story “The Teen Brain: It's Just Not Grown Up Yet” and computer to play audio file * Download of transcript from the NPR story “The Teen Brain: It's Just Not Grown Up Yet”

Note: Students will need a lot of support in this lesson when they reflect on decisions they have made that have harmed someone. It will be helpful to remind them that everyone makes mistakes, that we are all human, and the important thing is how we handle our mistakes. We don’t want students to feel guilty. We want them to see the opportunity they have to repair harm and grow from these experiences.

Students should divide a piece of paper in half and use these titles: "Positive Impact" and "Negative Impact." Ask them to give an example of a decision they made that had a positive impact on someone else and do the same for the negative impact. Remind students that they don’t have to pick the biggest, most important decisions. They can pick smaller ones and this may be an easier way for them to start looking at impact. Have students share their examples when they are finished.

Show "Film Module 4: What Is the Impact of My Decisions?" Introduce the film Troop 1500 using the "About the Films" and "Filmmaker Statement" subsections included in the "Getting Started" section. Ask students to take notes on examples of harm caused by the incarcerated mothers. Give students time after viewing the modules to complete their notes. Review and discuss their notes using these guiding questions:

  • Why do you think Jessica says that her mom is in Vegas?
  • What types of living situations are the various girls in while their moms are in prison?
  • How do the various mothers (Kenya, Ida, Melissa, and Susan) feel about being away from their kids?
  • How would you describe the relationships between the mothers and daughters based on what you saw in the module?
  • Respond to the statement Kenya's daughter Caitlin makes when she says, “Sometimes I think that your mistakes are kinda becoming a habit. Do you ever think about that and how I feel?”
  • You may now or one day be a mother. What impact does this film have on your ideas about motherhood?

Activity: Dramatizing Impact

In this activity, students will more fully explore a decision they made which had a negative impact on someone else. Ask students to return to the example in step 1 that they gave of a decision that had a negative impact (or they can choose another decision to work with). Remind them to start small — they don’t need to examine a decision that had major harmful effects. With the example in mind, students (working alone or in pairs) will choose one of the following:

  • Option 1: Write a scene where you speak to the person who was negatively impacted by your decision. The dialogue should bring to life the situation and the impact of the decision from the point of view of both participants. The dialogue should be one to two pages long. Consider having students pair up and perform the script for the class.

  • Option 2: Write a letter, a poem, or a monologue to yourself from the perspective of the person harmed by your decision. Put yourself in that person’s shoes — what do you think that person would want to say to you, would want you to know?

There is a lot of recent research about the development of the teen brain and implications for decision making. Justice Kennedy cited this research in his justification for eliminating life without the possibility of parole for juveniles convicted of nonviolent offenses in the landmark Graham v. Florida decision in 2010. Listen to the following five-minute NPR story about adolescent brains: "The Teen Brain: It’s Just Not Grown Up Yet".

Print out this transcript below and distribute to students working in pairs. Have the pairs review the transcript and highlight what they consider to be the three most interesting parts. Ask several pairs to share their responses.

To wrap up the discussion, end with these guiding questions: * How does information on teen brain development help you understand yourself and your decisions? * Adolescent development is characterized by taking risks and seeking out new experiences. How might these traits be riskier for teens with adverse backgrounds — for example, teens living in poverty, teens with a parent that has a substance abuse problem, or a homeless teen. * How can you use this information to make better decisions?

Activity: Role-play: Dealing with Anger

Learning to control anger is crucial to making good decisions. Review these techniques for managing anger with your students.

Print out the article and cut the 10 steps into strips. Divide the class into pairs and assign one step to each pair. Have students write a scenario that might lead to anger that their peers will recognize (examples include being fired from a job, being expelled from school, a partner canceling an important date, and a friend violating your trust). Role-play the scenario in two ways — the first culminating in anger and lack of resolution and the second using the assigned anger management technique. Ask a student to take notes in two columns in front of the class on what works and what doesn’t in dealing with anger based on feedback the audience gives from watching the role-plays.

Assignment: Making Good Decisions

This lesson illustrates the importance of having a solid process for making good decisions. In this assignment, students will be asked to contemplate an upcoming decision they need to make and use a decision-making process to work through the decision. The class can create a list of steps they believe are important to making a good decision or they can use "Student Handout C." Have students present their decisions in small groups with group members giving positive feedback. Have a volunteer from each group give a summary of the group’s work.

Frameworks for making good decisions: * A Framework for Thinking Ethically * How to Make Decisions

After all groups have presented, ask the class the following questions: What connections can you make from the decision you explored in step 3 to the upcoming decision you will be making? What will you do if one of the steps of your decision plan fails? How confident do you feel about succeeding with your upcoming decision?

Wrap up the assignment with a decision-making pledge. Ask the class to write the pledge together. It should include a vow to make the best decisions possible, where students recognize that they will make mistakes and promise to take responsibility for the outcomes of their decisions. Post the pledge in the classroom as a reference.

  1. Many teens find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy. Have students visit the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy to contemplate the consequences of decision making regarding sex.

    Read about recent trends in teen pregnancy rates. Take the National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy quiz and play the "Myth Monsters" game.

    Ask students to write a short review of the websites and the tools included. Conduct a read-around where students sit in a circle and read their reviews.

  • Film module:
    What Is the Impact of My Decisions?

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