Monthly Archives: March 2013

Kid Recognition

I began writing Thanksgiving notes to my students a few years back when I first taught three two-hour blocks of ILA (Integrated Language Arts).  I would make a spread sheet of all of my students.  I thought about their personalities and work habits and the observations I had made.  Then I would find something positive to say about each child.  It warmed my heart to see that some of them kept those good words throughout the school year.  I found some Thanksgiving clip art and ran my notes on colored paper.  I wrote them out one evening, put the child’s name on the side where they could be easily seen, and then placed them on their desks.  It was much easier to do this when I had about 55-60 students a year.  When I had 120 or more, it was harder, so I put that idea on hold for a while.  We are back to a double-block setting, so I gave them again this past November.

During the previous three school years, I taught only English to six classes a day.  At the start of this school year , we decided to celebrate and honor birthdays as a team.  I created cute postcards in Microsoft Publisher with four to a sheet of cardstock.  The student’s address label and our school’s return address is on one side, and a greeting is on the other side with a place for the teachers to sign their autographs.  I think the kids like having their birthdays acknowledged.  We do this at the beginning of the month.  I used to do this on my own but would buy inexpensive birthday card certificates at Dollar Tree.  I would also buy a bag of Blow Pops at the grocery store.  On or near each kid’s birthday, I would leave them their present on their desk. In the event that I forgot, I would send the kid out into the hallway with a fierce-looking expression.  Usually after the first time I do this, the other students catch on and are smiling.  I’ve actually sent some perfectly-behaved, straight-A honor roll babies out there, but they came back smiling because their treat was waiting.  So many kids have allergies these days; as a result, I no longer provide the candy  treat to them.  I even had kids remind me about their birthdays, but they needn’t have worried.  I was already prepared.  I wrote out my cards at the beginning of the month and put them in order by date and then by class period and kept them in my cabinet.  One of my former students put his birthday card into the clear plastic cover for the notebook he brought to my class.  I was touched.

We’ve been sending out positive postcards to our students most weeks this year and started doing this as a team last year.  The kids REALLY enjoy having one teacher single them out for a kind act, a good test score, etc.  They shyly come up to me and say thank you.  You can see their eyes sparkle, and they walk away with bounce in their step.  I buy stickers at the dollar bins at Target each August, so I finally had the brainstorm to use some of the positive stickers on the postcards.  I think I see a little trend developing.

I like to give the kids a little award at the end of the year that tells them the meaning of their name along with the statement to remember who they are as they go through life.  I include Psalm 139:14. “I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (NASB).  This particular psalm ministers to my own soul and moments of loneliness that I have.  It is a reminder to me that I am here with a purpose in life and that part of my continuing mission is to pour my love into young people.

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Spring Broken?

Today is the first day of spring or the vernal equinox.  At times in the spring semester I feel as though the “mean season” has hit.  The same students who don’t turn in work on time or at all still don’t turn in work. I want them to choose the better choice of getting the work in on time; this will make them a more productive citizen in the future. The kids whose parents don’t show them real love by setting boundaries are paying for it dearly. I just want to grab those “parents” and shake them senseless and ask, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO THIS CHILD?” and “How dare you raise a child with anything less than unconditional love?” and “Can you even imagine the damage you have already done to this baby who just wanted you to love him or her as is?”  I love and care for them, but I am not their Mama.  I cannot bring them home with me and nurture them in the evenings and on weekends.  We have standardized testing days scheduled in the weeks ahead, and the stakes get higher each year.  I have a tutorial group that meets once a week after school for an hour to work on reading strategies and practice their skills.   At times even I feel overwhelmed and want to just hid in a corner and say, “Forget it!”

Then a student will say or do something that touches my heart and lifts up my spirits.  They may give a sweet hug or smile just because they love you.  They may joke with you about trying to join your class even though you know their name isn’t on your roll sheet.  They show up with sausage kolaches for a fake morning detention just to spend time in your classroom.  They care about their grades.  They pay attention to your feelings and moods.  They put their names, games, and locales so that you can possibly see them play their sport outside of the school setting on your own personal time.  Their parents LOVE to see their students’ teachers at events.  These students make you cry at the end of the year because you know your time with them has come to an end.  They make you miss them fiercely the first few days of summer, then you accept the separation and relax and restore with family and friends.  When it’s time to pick up schedules in the fall, you hope to see these kids again and see how they’ve grown up and become even more precious than you ever thought they could.  You know what, they are the reason I get up each morning and go into that school house.  Yes, I want to see them all succeed, but the ones who love me and want me around are the ones I remember most fondly.  They are the ones I will always want to know the good news about whether it’s academic, athletic, or artistic success and endeavors.  They are the reason my heart sings.

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