From the beginning of civilization, there have always been jobs that needed to be done

and workers that – often reluctantly – had to step up and fill them as a matter of both personal and “tribe” survival. In Ancient Rome, for instance, the downside of being a Praegustator and pre-tasting all of the emperor’s food and drink is that poisoning was a popular way for his enemies to try to kill him. During the Dark Ages, there was a call for Lime Burners to make mortar by sitting at a scorching kiln for 48 hours straight; Fullers to clean wool by stomping on it in vats of urine; Corpse Collectors to remove plague victims; and Cottars – the early equivalent of a peasant temp worker – to perform the lowliest (and often smelliest) tasks of clean-up. And don’t even get us started on more recent centuries when countless children perished from injuries and lung disease associated with their tiny selves being sent down sooty chimneys or into the dark depths of coal mines. Unlike modern times, the freedom to transfer to something different/healthier/better-paying was not an option.

Whether you’re lucky enough to find your perfect job right after graduation or end up working a variety of not-so-perfect jobs in order to pay your bills, this month’s lesson plans are all about making a living, making a life, and making a difference.WWI-325


These discussion questions provide a good foundation prior to choosing which exercises to try first.

1. If you were given the opportunity to have any job in the world, what would it be (and why)?
2. What’s the most boring job you can imagine doing?
3. What kind of job would you have had in the Wild West?
4. Would you rather work inside all day at a desk or outside all day in the elements?
5. Would you prefer to work for a nice boss or work for yourself? Why?
6. Let’s say you really like your job but it doesn’t pay very much. If someone offered you a less desirable job for three times the salary, what would you do?
7. Would you rather have a male boss or a female? Why?
8. What do you believe is the secret to success at work?
9. What are three jobs which humans currently perform that you think could be staffed by robots (and why)?
10. If you ever had to fire someone, would it be the worker who’s a poor performer but has a great personality or the one who’s a good performer but is totally dislikable? Explain your rationale.



In “It Could Happen to You” (1994) Nicolas Cage plays a police officer who promises to share a lottery ticket with a struggling waitress (Bridget Fonda) instead of a tip. Romance and complications ensue when the ticket turns out to be the winning one. We usually think that people who buy lottery tickets are looking for a windfall that will, literally, allow them to buy happiness. But consider the person at work who is happy and secure and, to be a part of the team, adds a few dollars to the lottery pool.

Your assignment: Write a three page scene describing how various people share in the lottery winnings from a pool and how they may react to sharing with someone who doesn’t need the money. In the alternative, consider someone who is desperate for money and doesn’t quite get enough to bail him/her out. How do they interact with their new found wealthy colleagues?



“The Company Men” (2010) follows the lives of three executives who are victims of corporate downsizing and how their lives change during the Great Recession. Work - and the benefits from work - is part of our existence from the first part-time job we take at school until we retire in our 60s or later. But sometimes work, just as in life, gets interrupted.

Your assignment: Write a three page dialogue where a senior in high school calls his/her boyfriend/girlfriend after getting the news that the main income earner has been fired from their job and that changes will have to be made around the house and for the future. What is the biggest fear? Moving? College? The roof over his/her head?



Earvin “Magic” Johnson is one of the most famous athletes of modern time – a champion at the college level and with the Los Angeles Lakers, Johnson retired at age 36. Today, he is worth millions and is a successful business person, broadcaster, HIV awareness advocate, and part owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Your Assignment: You have been asked to write a two page outline for a documentary regarding Magic’s life to date. After doing your research, consider when making your outline the distinction between what he has done in his life, what he has become because of it, and what lessons are there for us all to learn from his experiences, failures, and successes.



“I work here - I carry a badge…” was the iconic tag line from the 1950s police TV drama “Dragnet”. The protagonists - Los Angeles Police Sergeant Joe Friday and Officer Frank Smith - beat the bushes and wear down shoe leather investigating crime in the City of Angels. In 1995, Sylvester Stallone portrays Judge Dredd, a comic book character in the technologically advanced dystopian future who, as police officer, prosecutor, and judge proclaims, “I am the law”. Technology, in other words, has basically eliminated the roles of attorneys, judges, and juries in order to maintain law and order.

Your assignment: Technology in the workplace is allowing fewer people to do more work in less time. Consider that concept as it relates to your school. Write a two page treatment for a 2035 high school themed film and describe how technology changes our traditional concepts of a brick and mortar school, how information is shared and processed, and, most important, what is the role (if any) of a principal, teachers, counselors, janitors, and others who combine to operate schools today.


rocket-225“October Sky” (1999) is a biographical film based on the life of Homer Hickam Jr., the son of a coal miner, who is inspired by the Sputnik satellite launch in the 1950s to become an engineer. He overcomes the objections of the family and ultimately becomes an aerospace engineer for NASA. True stories such as these remind us that regardless of life’s circumstances following a dream can lead to success and a lifetime of accomplishment.

Your assignment: Consider the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Now write a one-page synopsis of a bio-pic of your life to date. What odds have you overcome? What disappointments have you faced? When you look to the future, what is your dream?

ChristinaHamlettAs part of my ongoing commitment to supply great lesson plans for today’s classrooms, I always enjoy getting feedback on how the material is used and what kind of new content you’d like to see in future columns. I’m also happy to answer any questions related to specific problems your students may be struggling with. Just drop me a note at [email protected] or through my website at

Former actress/director Christina Hamlett is an award winning author, professional script consultant, and ghostwriter. Her credits to date include 31 books, 157 plays for young actors, and 5 optioned feature films.