Guest Blogger Rebecca Roach is Professional Development Associate in the 21st Century Education Enterprise at Morehead State University.

What Do You Believe?

Could you express your personal creed in 500 words or less?

This was the challenge Edward R. Murrow presented to American in the 1950’s during a time when ideology threatened to divide us as a nation.  He asked Americans, both famous and common, to compose essays on the core values that guided their daily lives.  He then recorded the authors reading these aloud and aired them on his radio program.  Murrow’s goal was “to point to the common meeting grounds of beliefs, which is the essence of brotherhood and the floor of our civilization.”

In 2005, Dan Gediman and Jay Allison revived the program on National Public Radio. Since then, thousands of teachers all over the world have challenged their students to do just that-to write what they believe.  These essays have taken the form of personal narratives, essays and even lists.  Even kindergarten students have done it.

So often our students are bombarded with a world that seeks to define them, and too often they are not asked to stop and listen to the language of their own hearts and minds.  Asking someone “what do you believe?” is as significant as asking, “who are you—really?”  Writing your own creed is the act of becoming your own person.  Listening to each other’s essay with an open heart and mind is the art of building a classroom community.

Last summer I was privileged to work with 23 elementary teachers from Eastern Kentucky schools during the Kentucky Reading Project 10-day workshop. Utilizing the free materials available on the This I Believe site, these teachers were able to compose essays that were funny, sad and incredibly moving.   On the last day of our workshop, we read aloud our essays in a “laughter and tears” celebration of who we are.  I firmly believe that whenever possible authors should read aloud their own work, so I, with the help of my son, William, recorded and uploaded the read-aloud versions of these essays to Dataseam Studio, where you can listen to them too.

For more information on the This I Believe project, please visit their website at  At this site you will find collections of earlier published essays, audio essays for streaming, educators’ guides for early and upper grades as well as guides for houses of worship. From there your students can create their own essays for your classroom podcasts.