A bucket list made with Post-it notes by elementary students in South Korea.

We completed our “Bucket List” project today. All seven of my sixth-grade classes, with about 35 students in each, contributed to the effort. Our lesson objective focused on asking and answering the question, “What do you want to do?” Most students took it seriously, and it turned out to be a great learning experience for all involved.

In case you haven’t heard, I’ll explain what a bucket list is the same way I described to my students. What’s a bucket? It’s something you put things in. What’s a list? Ordered information. Think of a ‘Bucket List’ as a bucket you toss things in. Those ‘things’ are your dreams, and our ‘bucket’ is a wall.

When I asked my classes if they understood, most students responded with something along the lines of “death”, “die”, and/or “dying list”. I think they got the point.

Each student was tasked with creating a list of ten things they ‘want to do’. We encouraged them to think outside of textbook answers, and expanded the lesson’s expressions to include, “What do you want to do/be/have/eat…” After individual lists were made, everyone chose a favorite item to stick on the wall.

A bucket list made with Post-it notes by elementary students in South Korea.
A bucket list made by my sixth grade students in Ochang, Korea.
I think students had more fun posting their notes than actually doing the assignment. They used chairs or climbed each other to see who could post their note highest. Some even made it as high as the ceiling, but with a running start. I may have helped some too, but I didn't see or encourage any of that behavior. At all. Okay, maybe I did a little.

What does your ‘bucket list’ look like? Do you have one? ‘What do you want to do?’ I think it’s important for all of us to have a list of aspirations. And it’s never too late to start, or add items to an already existing one.

I’m fortunate to have already crossed off many items from my list. I’ve done about everything I’ve ever set out to do, and I’m on my way to achieving goals I never thought would be possible. The best part is all of my successes in life are a result of being encouraged. No one has ever told me I can’t do something.

I realize now more than ever before how important my role is as a teacher. It’s my turn to motivate. It’s my duty to help students not only learn but dream. Even though I teach hundreds of them, I know I can make a difference in the lives of at least a few. To encourage everyone I encounter is one item I never want to fully cross off my list.