Dedicate your work

One of my favorite authors is Daniel Pink.  I like Pink for two important reasons: 
  1. Pink spends time collecting useful research and succinctly includes this research in his books (two of my favorite reads:  A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers will Rule the Future and Drive) .
  2. Each book contains thoughtful sections, called "Portfolios"  or the "Toolkit," which include clever ideas how to put research into practice.
You know I adore practical things.  If you don't believe me, re-read my initial post here.

....I just thought of  one more important reason I like Pink (besides the cute color name, no?), he emails back lickety-split when I email (or my students and I) email him a question.  Seriously, can you name other authors who email back?  Or so quickly?  The longest it has taken him to reply is 48 hours.  He is the Nordstrom of writers.

I have been using an activity from Pink's book, A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers will Rule the Future.  It comes from the Portfolio section under the chapter about "Meaning."  Who doesn't want meaning in their life?  Wouldn't learning be more engaging to students if they felt it had meaning?  Pink borrowed this activity from Naomi Epel's The Observation DeckBy association, Epel is brilliant, too.

Here's the skinny:

First, read students this passage from Pink's book, page 243 (I've shortened and modified it a touch; that's what we educators do to fit the needs of our students). 

"Look at the page immediately before the Table of Contents page in most books.  You will find a dedication page.  Why should authors have all the fun?  Why can't everyone - teachers, students, salespeople, doctors, managers, engineers - dedicate their work to someone else? 

The actor Danny Glover once said that he dedicates every performance to someone - it might be Nelson Mandala or the old man who guards the stage door - but he is always working for someone other than himself.  This focus gives his acting purpose and makes his work rich.

You can do the same.  Dedicate your work today, or this class or lesson, to someone you admire or who matters in your life.  You can infuse your work with purpose and meaning when you think of it as a gift."

Second, provide time for students to think about who (or what) they want to dedicate their work to that day.  I give my students a "dedication log" where they can neatly record their dedications (a PDF is included  here).  For the first two weeks, I make daily dedications mandatory, after that it is optional.  Guess what?  When I surveyed students last year, they ALL continued their dedications throughout the semester - some even made dedications on non-school days! A few more details:  I generally write my dedication on the board to model dedicating.  Sometimes, I even write descriptors like "Dana - my sister."

Third, depending on time (and mood), I may ask students to share their dedication with a partner, small group or the entire class.  This is always optional for them as I want to respect their privacy and dedication.  Some days we write down our dedications and move on without discussion.  The process without discussion takes about 30 seconds at most - think, dedicate, move on.

Fourth, you can stop there with the dedication process - just thinking about someone else can be novel for some students.  Many days, though, I do end class and ask students to revisit their dedication log and think "one more time" about their dedication.

See what you is different.  I was pleasantly surprised when I surveyed students and they all reported this activity brought more meaning to their lives and afforded them the opportunity to think of others.

Ready for my dedication?  You and Daniel Pink. Thank you both, amazing blog reader (or follower).  This post is dedicated to you.


PS - For Parents:  Little O and I started daily dedications at home.  Over breakfast, we each choose a person, animal or thing (like a doll, for example) and dedicate our day.  We literally are two days into it, so I will  let you know what impact it has on both our lives at a later date.  :)

Dedication log in progress....student sample


  1. I just thought of one more thing we can do with paint swatches... use them for dedication sheets (which would be perfect for attaching to longer term projects).

  2. Stacy - Interesting idea on using paint swatches. The could be like mini-dedication logs.


  3. I just tried this idea with my soccer team of 13 year-old boys. Your post captures it really well. I had forgotten where I'd read it, so just googled "Danny Glover dedication" and found your post.


  4. What a neat idea. It gives students purpose for their work. Add to that the autonomy to choose who or what they want to dedicate to. This is an opportunity for students to be motivated. I think this is something that would catch on quickly if I started it. I'll have to give it a try at school and at home and see where it takes me.

    Meredith L.

  5. Yet another simple and oh-so-awesome tool to use in my classroom! I think that the fact that students have soooo much choice in this process will make it very effective. They get to choose who/what to dedicate their day to, they get to choose whether or not to share that, they get to choose how much effort they are willing to put forth in that person's 'honor'. All of these choices help the student to feel in control of their own destiny (learning, in this case). I think I will do a trial run with my wee ones, work out the kinks, and give it a shot next year with 'real, live' students. Again, thanks for such fresh ideas!