What I Learned From a High School Psychology Assignment

I think I was a Junior in high school when I took the required Psychology class. For one assignment, we were asked to write a paper or create a project on a psychological subject of our choice. (Looking back, I realize this is a very vague assignment. I’m not sure what the desired learning outcome was supposed to be, but that was the assignment). The teacher encouraged us to be creative. But I think everyone in the class just started writing a paper. By the time we were Juniors, we knew how to do that. We didn’t like it, but we knew how.

I don’t know what prompted me to try this. I decided to write a “play.” I found this assignment in a pile of papers the other day and thought I’d share it with you. (Remember I was sixteen. Be merciful). I entitled it:


Scene: A front porch. An older couple are rocking on rocking chairs. The woman is holding a skein of yarn. As they speak, they lean toward each other and talk rather loudly.

Woman: Hold your hands up so you can hold this yarn for me.

Man: You say you saw Hanna with some corn yesterday? She’s doing real well with her garden this year, isn’t she?

Pause for a minute while the woman hands the yarn to the man and begins rolling yarn into a ball. The only sound is the creaking of rocking chairs.

Man: My arthritis is sure acting up lately

Woman: Yes. Arthur is really going places in that new packing house. He’s going to be something big someday

Quiet overcomes them again

Woman: (getting sentimental) We’ve lived here, in this house for close to fifty years, and lived a really full life

Man: Yes, my ears are getting bad. I have a hard time understanding people sometimes, but I can always understand you. I love you.

Woman: I love you too.

Lights dim and you hear the creaking of the rocking chairs.

That was it. It didn’t even take up a full page. I read it now and think—well I think a lot of things, not least of which is, ‘that’s sickeningly sweet’ and ‘what does that have to do with a high school psychology class?’

The funny thing is the teacher was delighted. She read it aloud to the class (I was embarrassed). I got an A. I’m still not sure what the assignment was supposed to accomplish, but I’ll tell you what I came away with. If given a choice, try the creative option. Go out on a limb and be different. Even if you don’t think what you’re doing is “good,” it is different from what most people are doing. Try something new.

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