Thursday, January 12, 2012

Do they know what they're worth?

What I'm about to share was birthed out of a very sad wake up call.

I had a student who came to school with lice.  Not a huge deal, right?  It happens from time to time and we all start to feel like our own heads are itching.  We get paranoid and check our hair and ask a friend to take a peek just to make sure.  The thing is, this happened to one of my students who comes from a very challenging background.  Your heart goes out to the kid because no one (especially that young) should have to deal with such trying circumstances.  On the day she returned to school (lice-free) I was dropping my kids off at P.E. and happened to notice what beautiful shiny hair she had.  I had never noticed before.  Why?  Because she had never come to school with it brushed, and to be honest I'm not sure how often it was washed.  Then I remembered that when I checked her hair that morning, her hair smelled really good.  It took lice for her to receive the care and grooming she should have been getting all along.

Combine this story with a note I got from a very nice mother.  Her absolute sweetheart of a daughter had been teased about the way she looked.  The girl is such a cutie pie, but the teasing made her self-conscious and mom's encouragement and words of affirmation telling her that everyone is different and these differences make them special didn't seem to shake those mean words echoing in her head.

It breaks my heart.

Don't they know how precious they are?

Many of them come from loving homes that fill them with encouragement.  Some are neglected.  So how are they to overcome their circumstances and become who they were created to be?  How can they reach their potential if they don't know all they are and all they could be?

That's when I decided that maybe we could start small in our classroom.  Just one small message at a time. 

I decided to post a dry erase sentence strip on the wall with one short sentence.

I determined that every now and then I would randomly change the adjective to remind the students of who they are: special, unique, loved, smart, cherished, etc.  We'd incorporate it into Language Arts with parts of speech and vocabulary!  It was just a short sentiment to insert into our day. 

Then I thought I would add something to it.  It's one thing for me to tell them that, but for them to internalize these words I wanted them to apply it to themselves.  That's why I added the box.

Just like our "Classbook" status updates in the hallway, I made this into an option for students who have finished all their work.  I set a stack of note cards next to the box so that students could write reflections about that sentence.  They could write down why it is true about them.  The cards could be anonymous (insert short vocabulary lesson) or they could put their names, claiming it as their own. 

When I explained to the kids that sometimes it's really easy to be hard on ourselves and think bad stuff about ourselves like we're not smart or we're not good at something I was surprised by how many kids raised their hands saying they could relate.  I told them that's why I would be writing them these sentences from time to time . . . to remind them about the wonderful things about themselves.  You should have seen their faces light up.  After 1 day look at some of the responses I found in the box.
"I am a good singer.  I am a good scientist."

"I am special because I was named after a flower and a lily pad and my middle name was named after a famous painter."

"My teacher loves me so does my family and friends."

"I am special because I use lower case letters."  (This student had difficulty applying lower case letters - he always used all caps.)
I know this is just a simple activity, but I really pray that it does make a difference for someone.


  1. Wow! Great idea. This brought tears to my eyes! You are so right. A lot of my students probably don't know what they're worth. I'll have to start this!

  2. I love this idea, Mel! Thanks for sharing!

    3rd Grade Gridiron

  3. Very much understand...more than I wish I had to =)
    First Grade Blue SKies

  4. I love this! Thank you for sharing!

  5. This is touching. I got goose bumps as I read. This is just so precious and so true. Thanks for sharing.

    Randi @ Teach It With Class
    Teach It With Class

  6. Thanks, ladies. I know my experience is not unique. I think all teachers have these realizations. I just hope that the small gestures and words planted now can help them become who they were created to be as they grow. Every day I check the box, and I'm so happy to read the responses that are accumulating. I think I'm going to create section cards with the sentences on them and then string them together at the end of the year to make it into a book.


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