A lesson plan to go with “Height doesn’t matter” from the January-February 2011 issue of L.A. Youth. In this article, Audrey writes about being happy with her boyfriend despite people judging them because she’s taller than him.

By Amanda Riddle, co-managing editor

Grades: 7-12
Subjects: language arts, life skills, health
Suggested Time Allowance: 45 minutes-1 hour

• copies of the L.A. Youth article “Height doesn’t matter” (one per student)
• pens and paper
• white board or blackboard

Students will develop strategies to stay true to themselves when others disapprove.

Write “Don’t judge me” on the board and ask your students if they’ve ever felt judged by others. Maybe they were pursuing their passion for acting but were told they weren’t good enough, or their friends didn’t like their taste in clothes or music or guys, or people thought they were stuck up because they cared about their grades. Write down the judgmental phrases they’ve heard, like “you can’t act,” “why are you wearing that?” or “you’ll never succeed.”

It can be hard to stay true to yourself when you feel that others disapprove of what you’re doing or the decisions you’ve made. Using their examples, ask your students how they felt when people judged them. Did it make them second-guess themselves? Were they able to ignore what others thought and stick to what was important to them? If they did change, how do they feel about that now?

Have your students read Audrey’s story “Height doesn’t matter” on page 9. After reading the story, as a discussion measuring their reading comprehension, ask students to answer the following questions about the story:

How did others judge Audrey and Abee?
• A guy pointed at them and laughed when he saw Abee holding an umbrella for Audrey.
• People stare, point and make comments like “she’s too tall for him.”
• Audrey’s friend called Abee “tiny” and asked how they kiss. Other friends told her they thought she could do better.
• Audrey’s mom even seemed to judge their height difference when she asked Audrey to squat so she and Abee would be the same height in their pictures before prom.
• She saw people staring at them at prom because she was wearing 3-inch heels.

How did Audrey used to react when people judged her?
• It used to bother her.
• She would hold her head down and avoid making eye contact.
• She hated that she felt like they had a spotlight on them.

What helped Audrey be able to ignore what others thought?
• Abee said their height difference didn’t matter to him, and he thought she was pretty.
• She and Abee had a lot in common and liked talking to each other.
• She and Abee were able to laugh about their height difference.
• At prom she reminded herself that Abee was proud to have her as his date.
• She thinks Abee is a talented musician, smart and sweet and likes him just the way he is.

After reading the story, ask your students how Audrey was able to stay true to what was important to her and ignore what others thought. If they had been in her position would they have been able to do what she did?

Have students write an essay about a time they felt judged. Have them write about whether they succumbed to the pressure or if they were able to stand up for themselves. What helped them stay strong? If they did change for others, how do they feel about that decision now? What did they learn from the experience? Using Audrey’s experience as a guide, have them write about how they can stay true to themselves in the future.

Extension activity:
It’s too easy to judge others when we haven’t been in their shoes. Have your students pledge to go a week without expressing judgmental thoughts about others, then write about the experience. Was it easy or hard? How did it make them feel?