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.