School ends in a half hour.
Earlier today, a wonderful woman came to work with my 6th graders on "putting up" each other - giving and receiving genuine compliments and praise. The activities she did with them brought me to tears and I had to step outside for a minute.
She did an activity that I dubbed "Heart" - two students stand in the front of the room, one is given a marker, the other is pinned with a white paper heart. The student with the marker listens to a story as the child with the heart acts it out. Every time the story mentions a positive act or kind words, the student with the marker colors in a little part of the paper heart. In the first story, the experiences and words are very negative. In the second story, they are very lovely. At the end of each story, the class is asked "How do you think _____ felt after experiencing all this?" and the class calls out any emotions that came to mind. Of course, a filled in heart has experienced more "sweet love" as one student called it, then an empty heart.
This part where they called out emotions was my favorite.
First, my students displayed an incredible amount of empathy - moreso than they've ever shown each other.
Two, they are great dramatists. I was cracking up at their performances and expressions.
Three, they were choosing some great words: displaced, jubilant, elated, ecstatic, melancholy - I kept thinking Where did they get these words from? Then I remembered all those words are from their recent vocabulary practice. So, of course that made me feel pretty awesome.
I'm so thankful this lady is going to be working with the special needs students next month. What she brought out of them was beautiful, the environment she quickly established with them was safe enough even for my shyest students to speak about pain they sometimes feel.
As their teacher, it was powerful to hear them talk about their positive and negative experiences with me. I cringed as they recounted all the words I've said or even faces I've made during really difficult moments. And then completely blown away when they expressed as a whole that they "know Ms. B is under a lot of stress right now, trying to get us to be ready for life and for the test." They spoke about times I have made them feel empowered and times I made them feel worthless. Yes, one child said I'd made him feel worthless when I lost my patience with him last month. Wow. I spoke to this child privately later on and we both explained our sides of the story to each other, we promised each other how we would handle our conflicts in the future, and forgave each other. I absolutely love and am infinitely grateful for my job.
The power of our words... crazy.
Thursday, December 18
School ends in a half hour.