Inspiring teachers can be found most places, and they don’t have to be veterans of the classroom to be someone from whom you can learn. I first met this week’s guest blogger in my role as Health rep for my state organization where she served as President for the IAHPERD Council for Future Professionals. Rachel Erb is now teaching high school health and jumped at the chance of sharing an idea that is working for her with her students.
As a second-year teacher, I sometimes find it hard to make an obvious connection with every single student. It can be tough to reach every student throughout the year – this is why I started Operation: Do something to make someone smile today.
As you all know, in health education, we talk about a variety of sensitive topics, especially at the high school level. Students feel comfortable and safe in our classrooms to share their different experiences – some happy and good, and others that are quite devastating to hear. Even the students who do not share, they usually listen with respect, understanding, and empathy toward one another. Sometimes the discussions lead to some pretty heavy topics. To always make sure that we end on a high note, as my students exit the room, I always leave them with the phrase, “Do something to make someone smile today.”
Every day, I have at least one student tell me that they already did, or that they have already formulated a plan to do something to make someone’s day just a little bit better, brighter, or easier. I see kids immediately turn to each other and say, “Hey, smile.”, and they do. They leave my class with a plan to make the world a little bit happier. Watching my students do this daily, I cannot help but to have my heart melt a little bit. They don’t have to do this, but they choose to take the challenge on.
The reality is, even though most of them are doing something to make someone smile daily, I have no idea if there is someone making them smile. In most high schools, we are seeing a high rise in anxiety and depression. Even though I don’t always make an obvious connection to all of my students, there is something unique that I admire about each of them. I truly feel that if we could do just one extra, small thing to show every single student that they matter, that it might make all the difference.
So my tangible “Do something to make someone smile today” is to write each one of my students their own individual “Thank-you” card and give it to them at the end of the semester. I know this seems like it can be a lot of work, but it becomes easier if you break it up into a few easy steps:
1) Throughout the semester, jot down notes about something specific a student did.
– Did they share a difficult experience?
– Did they show resiliency through a specific experience?
– Did they step up in class as a leader?
– Anything you admire – Make a note! It will mean so much more if it is specific.
2) At the end of the semester, review your notes.
Make sure that you have something to say for every student. If you don’t have anything, you’ve identified which students you may not have connected with. CONNECT WITH THEM.
3) Buy some Thank-you Cards.
A pack of 40 blank Thank-you Cards can be purchased from TJ Maxx or Marshall’s for about $6. It is worth it.
4) Begin writing.
Make it genuine. You’ll remember why you wrote down your note and it will be easy to compliment the student on that event.
5) Personally hand them the note.
I like to do this the day before Finals. This way, I can make sure that I personally hand it to each student. (Some students take their final in an alternate location)
Some examples of things I have written are:
“Thank you for sharing your experience with your uncle’s depression and suicide. It showed true bravery that you were able to express your story to the class.”
“Being a junior in a Freshman class isn’t always easy. I admire that you make an effort to be such a positive role model to the Freshmen.”
“I’m so proud to have seen your strength and maturity grow throughout the semester.”
“Thank you for always volunteering to turn the projector screen on. It seems like a little daily task, but it made a little part of my day that much easier.”
This is such a small, quick act for us as teachers, but it leaves them on a positive note before they leave for winter break and reminds them that this classroom will always be a safe place for them. School might be the only place they feel special, and you might be the only person to notice and say something special to them. So I challenge you, whether it is writing them Thank-you cards, or finding your own niche, Do something to make someone smile today.
If Rachel’s blog post resonated with you, let her know on Twitter, perhaps sharing kindness initiatives that have worked for you.