Posted in general education, more seeds, reflection, social-emotional, special education, spirit

I Started the Year with Affirmations…

A simple message on a pencil can set the tone for the whole day. {Image Credit: (c) 2019, Kim M. Bennett}

Setting the Tone for the Class

I started the year this year with almost the same class as last year.

One of my teens graduated in June. I requested to stay with the remaining six after we had a class meeting to discuss the pros and cons of looping and I had the kids write a persuasive essay on the topic. All of them thought that looping would be the best for them, as students.

Last year, we spent a great deal of time on community, and building an atmosphere where students felt free to share their struggles, to confide in us and each other, and where they felt able to take academic risks without worrying about looking “dumb.” I knew that I could get nowhere toward making up lost ground unless I first built a community of learners in my room.

This year, my kids came back excited for the school year – such a change for them from their previous experiences with school! But the summer can be long for many kids, and I worried about that “backsliding” that often occurs – particularly in their social and emotional skills.

Setting the Tone for the Year

All of my teens have significant academic gaps, and many have cognitive disabilities. All are placed in this setting because of behavioral, mental health or substance abuse issues. They are keenly aware of their shortcomings – after all, they have been removed from their original schools and districts – and, sometimes, their homes – and placed in our alternative setting.

I wanted to get them to begin thinking of their own strengths as human beings, and build upon them. I saw a Facebook post showing little affirmations written on the students’ pencils for the first day of school, and decided that it couldn’t hurt, and it might help!

It took several minutes for the kids to notice. Then one said, “Hey, there’s something written on my pencil!” And then they all noticed. The results were interesting. One student, whose note said, “Be comfortable with who you are,” promptly covered the message with flowered duct tape. Another, whose message said, “You are stronger than you think,” tried to wipe his off. The rest of the kids, however, read their messages out loud, and were pleased. And those pencils were neatly placed at the tops of their desks at dismissal!

One boy read his pencil (pictured above), and asked why I wrote that, and I replied, “Because you ARE kind, and it DOES matter.” Over the course of the rest of the day, he 1) poured a cup of water for himself and then one of his classmates; 2) used a wipe to clean his desk and then cleaned another classmate’s afterward; 3) made sure my classroom door was closed when we left, because, “There are a lot of bad*** kids around here.”

Our words matter. How we feel about our students matters. The bar we set for them matters. Our outlook and attitude matter.

We matter. To them.

Have a splendid year!
Big Life Journal: Teen Edition ~ Buy now on Amazon
Big Life Journal ~ Buy now on Amazon

{This blog is featured in Top 100 Special Education Blogs}


Mom of four, Nana to seven, homeschooler, special educator, and lover of all good things... striving to do His work every day.

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