This has been one of those weeks that turned out to be rather inspiring for a variety of reasons, so I thought I'd pump out a post on what fueled this desire to share on the blog. Hope you like it!
Latest goal: Make a great effort to write positive messages on post-it notes to various students at least once per week.
In past years, I always meant well and started strong, but ended up forgetting about my plan to REALLY think about my students as individuals. It's so easy to get caught up in all of the deadlines, meetings, and other tasks, and I'm quite sure that this is still going to challenge me as it always does, but, at least, in this moment, I'm planning to make a good effort to brighten someone's day from time to time. Life is not easy, so why not send out positive vibes when possible.
As an educator, I can tell you that I LOVE receiving little notes of appreciation from administrators and students every once in a while. Who doesn't like to be told that s/he is doing something right and that work is not going unnoticed? Being an adult, let alone a teenager, can be really tough, so a little message to tell a person that s/he is an important part of your day can go a long way!
Here are three reasons why I write 'happy notes' to students:
1. A positive, personal message can put a spin on the day!
Last week, I noticed that a new student (to me, not necessarily the school) was really participating actively in class. For some reason beyond me, I thought that I needed to write this student a 'happy note' to let him/her know that I saw that s/he was engaged and actively participating in discussion. I told the student to keep up the good work and I drew a smiley face next to my signature. When I gave this high schooler the note, I glanced over to see the reaction. This person's face lit up with a big smile and that made me feel really happy. No kidding, this student's participation has increased since that day. Honestly, I wasn't expecting that reaction, which I would say is quite ideal, but it really happened!
This example alone convinces me that I must do better when it comes to noticing the efforts of the individual student. Will this be the result every time I hand one of my students a positive note? Probably not, but if it makes a student's day even a tad bit brighter, whether I see evidence of it or not, I'm cool with it.
2. It feels good to make someone else feel wanted and important.
One day this week, I laughed when I looked over at a student who was showing his/her 'happy note' to another student. The other student didn't hesitate to ask me, with a big smile on his/her face, why s/he didn't get a message from me, too. I smiled and let that student know that I'm sure s/he would earn one soon. It's not clear to me whether that message was shared with a classmate so as to make fun of the fact that I wrote a note OR if the student was proud of it. Either way, it's guaranteed that it was a kind gesture and that the student can appreciate, at least, the fact that s/he was singled out for one positive reason or another. The student who didn't get a note that day looked happy, too. Kindness is contagious!
3. We don't always know what others are going through.
No one can argue that a heartfelt message to someone will not make a bad day any worse than it already is. We see students who seem to be doing fine from day to day, but there is inevitably going to be a time when we find out that one of our students is struggling with a personal issue. As an educator, I can relate and am going to share my personal anecdote.
Last spring, I was in a terrible, life-changing car accident; coming to school with a smile on my face challenged me more than ever last semester and I don't think I did a very good job of it, but the point is, I made a great effort to hide how I was feeling. When colleagues brought me meals, museum tickets, or just an offer to go get my lunch in the dining hall, life was a little better on those days. When students asked me how I was doing or offered to bring me a meal, it brightened my day. With some luck, those of us who single students out to say something positive from time to time will do it on a day when a student could really use some encouragement. Life is short; let's be kind.
Here are a couple of photos I took of the 'happy notes.' Please share what you do to connect with students on an individual basis in the comments below. It would be great to hear what you do!