Last week I had the distinct pleasure of conducting an Ethical Will Writing Workshop for a group of some 50 Seniors at Oak Lawn Community High School. They were all part of Creative Writing classes led by Ms. Jennifer Jepsen and Ms. Erika Buys.
The two classes are working on autobiographies that concentrate less on the mundane parts of life (when they were born, where they lived, siblings, etc.) and more about who they are and who/what has shaped them. That is a fantastic assignment for anyone, but especially for these young adults as they prepare to enter the real world outside of high school.
The purpose of an Ethical Will is to create a spiritual letter for family, friends and colleagues that shares the writer's sense of self. There are no hard and fast rules for what an Ethical Will should contain, but usually it consists of some or all of the following elements: 1) Values, 2) Gratitude, 3) Life Lessons, 4) Achievements & Hopes, 5) Favorites and 6) Advice.
The students used the first writing exercise to create a rough draft of an Ethical Will. After a discussion of the basic writing process (Brainstorming, Rough Draft, Revisions, Editing and Publishing), they used the second writing exercise to revise and edit their initial document. Part of their grade was based on the improvements from the rough draft to the more polished version. Eventually, the Ethical Will is to be incorporated into their individual autobiographies.
What struck me most about these exercises was the depth of feeling that several of the students expressed. It was gratifying to see how they had taken the assignment to heart and shared some of their most innermost thoughts. When the project has been completed, I hope to share some of their work with you as fine examples of personal history writing.