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This I Believe Podcasts 1: Intro, Self-confidence, Failure, and Friendship

Three months ago (!), I had the best intentions of publishing a few posts on the NPR This I Believe series, but life just gets in the way sometimes, so here it is September already and I’m just now getting to it. No matter–what is to come in the next few weeks is more than worth the wait.

I was touched by each student’s belief statement. During the course of the semester, I was blessed enough to learn and be changed by my students (which normally happens, but not to this degree). Once, while I was grading a batch of This I Believe essays*, I was inspired and wrote the following short paragraph.

How My Students’ This I Believe Essays Make Me Feel

These essays make me feel so hopeful. You are a generation with a strong head on your shoulders and hope for the future. You believe in family, friends, and true love, despite the grim outlook the media and your own experience has given you. You believe in beautiful things like music, reason, hard work, the strength of your fellow human beings, and even cars. You are young, yet you have been tested–deaths, divorce, heartbreak–and you passed through those fires with optimism still emanating from your hears. You question your religious beliefs and the possibility of life after death, and your responses are often unsure, but always honest. You are truly opening your hearts and putting You in these assignments, and it is moves me. It renews my confidence in tomorrow and makes me proud to have been even a small part of your lives, for I know that your hope, optimism, strength, and reliance on each other will change our world. Thank you.

Now, I was lucky enough to get to read all 60 statements, but in the course of this podcast project, you will hear only 31 recorded statements, as this was optional for the students. The This I Believe statement was the final writing project, a 500ish-word description of their belief, which often includes how they reached that belief or how it changed their lives. I’ll be publishing all 31 of those recordings on my blog over the next month (three to four podcasts every three days), so be sure to check back, sign-up to receive posts via email, or subscribe to my RSS feed. You can also check the This I Believe directory to search by student name, topic, or publication date.

The Podcasts

“My Journey to Self-Confidence” by Diana B. — Click here to listen.

As a foreigner with a gap between her teeth, Diana had always been an outside in her school. But a school to Spain changed her and now she has found self-confidence, joy, and courage.

“Fail Once — Pass Twice” by Student 5a — Click here to listen.

This student was a shy, timid child who avoided the limelight whenever possible. But failing the Abitur, a set of rigorous oral and written exit exams that German students must pass to graduate from “high school,” forced her into the spotlight the next school year when she was The One who had failed. It brought her out of her shell and taught her that success can be hers if she tries hard.

Note: When a German student passes their Abitur (taken at the end of German “high school,” or Gymnasium), they have earned what is roughly equivalent to an associates degree in America.

“A Friend Allows You Distance But Is Never Far Away” by Student 1** —  Click here to listen.

When her best friend from birth spent a year abroad, this student lost a part of herself. But that experience taught them both how urgently they needed each other, and they discovered the growth they could experience when they are apart, and also how that distance taught them the true value of their relationship.

Creative Commons license

Each This I Believe podcast recording is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States license (read more about this license by clicking here). To post, publish, or use any recording (other than for private use), please contact me by email at l@lindenamueller.com and I will put you in contact with the student, who has retained all original copyrights.


* The students completed four assignments in the This I Believe project: a 250-word credo, a 1,000- to 1,400-word essay, an approximately 500-word statement, and a speech, which was the statement read aloud to the class. This assignment arc was taken from the This I Believe college curriculum and is designed to encourage students to explore their beliefs and the description of their beliefs at different levels of focus, e.g. from afar in the credo to very detailed in the essay. It helps students to find the strongest and best examples of their beliefs, to get practice writing, and to explore their beliefs more fully than writing only one statement allows.

In their end-of-semester comments, many students said that at the beginning of the semester, they thought it sounded like a lot of extra work, but by the end of the semester, they realized how much they really enjoyed the project and enjoyed all the “extra work.” It really made me glad to hear that the students understood and benefited from this sort of development, because I know the value of it, but that doesn’t mean they believe me when I tell them that value. :)

** I gave my students the option to publish their podcasts anonymously, and several students chose to do so. I will refer to these students as “Student #”, where # is a randomly assigned number.