Thursday, December 18

Heart in the Classroom

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.


Anonymous said...

Very inspiring post! Reading it made me think about the way I sometimes react to my daughter when I am teaching her.
You have such a rewarding as well as tough job! Much respect to you for all the hardwork you put in teaching our future!:)

GirlGriot said...

Oh, this is so powerful. I wish I had someone like this to come and work with my students. I've been holding back writing about my class this term because I had such a hard time with this last group. I really appreciate what you wrote about your response to your one student's comment and the lovely/loving way you and the student came to a resolution. I'd love to see you teach, B. I know I would leave the room with my head and heart fairly bursting -- the one with inspiration and the other with admiration. (... and, quite fittingly, the 'word verification' below this comment very nearly spells "respect" ... perfect)

ahnka said...

Thank you Tru and GG.

GG: I make a million mistakes in the classroom, in regards to my attitude toward the students. I have been flippant, impatient, cold, downright rude to them. They get the brunt of my frustration too often. I was feeling like I was going to break last week. Many frustrating and scary things took place in my classroom. For the week to end on a positive note, with my learning from them as much as they learned from her, seems miraculous, and like the universe has given me yet another chance.
I'm humbled by this moment and hope I remember I need to get *my* act together as much as they do.