Sorry for the novel guys, but had a very touching lesson yesterday, which I felt like sharing.
I’d been noticing recently in some of my classes, that the language my students used with each other wasn’t always nice. This was worrying for me, because I know that habits formed at this age are harder to break later in life and will influence their character in quite a significant way.
So I planned a lesson that made me quite nervous, because there were so many ways it could go wrong. Regardless, when they came in, I told them to sit down in front of an envelope and listen.
I told them the story of my vocal disability, and the time I had spent as a mute.
I told them all about how I had spent months listening to people yelling at each other from car windows or throwing hurtful words back and forth between them, and the devastation I felt for the ways these people were choosing to use their words.
They were wasting them. Completely.
Then I told them about the promise I had made to myself back then, that if I should ever get my voice back, I would never waste another word.
Not a single one.
Because words are power.
They have the power to raise us up, to inspire, to heal, to encourage and to do incredible things to the hearts and minds of those around us… And that’s beautiful.
So why would we ever choose to hurt someone with them?
Anyway, I finished my little speech, and explained the next activity. We were going to pass our envelopes around the circle and every time a new persons envelope landed in front of us, we would take a moment to reflect on the things we loved about that person and write them a note saying something kind. Then we would put it in their envelope and pass it on.
It made me so happy, looking around at this room of 13 year olds, as they scribbled furiously with their heads down and smiles on their faces, determined to brighten each other’s days in the biggest way possible.
But it doesn’t end there. We were nearing the end of the lesson when one of the girls stopped what she was doing and looked over at me with a confused expression on her face.
“Miss, where is your envelope?”
I was so thrown off by that question. I smiled at her and told her that it was okay and I didn’t really need one – but what happened next nearly made me cry.
With no hesitation, she jumped up from her desk, strode over to my table and grabbed one of the spare envelopes sitting there. After writing my name on it she stood in front of the class, held the envelope above her head and boldly announced to the room that everyone needed to stop what they were doing for a minute and write Miss Johnson a note (since she had tried to be silly and not include herself in the activity).
Then I watched as one by one my sweet, beautiful kids bounced over to my envelope to slip their notes inside.
I actually love these guys.
So… so much.
Later, when the class was over and each student had gone home with their envelopes filled with kind words, I sat down to read what they’d written to me, and I’m not going to lie, there were tears.
Not one of them had said anything half-hearted or superficial.
They had understood the lesson.
Now, as a lot of you may know, a few months ago I had spoken to my head teacher about leaving my post in that school.
It was a long and expensive commute, I wasn’t teaching enough classes to be working towards my full teacher registration and I had been facing a whole bunch of challenges working in that school.
Also, as even fewer of you may know, earlier this week an advertisement went out in the public domain searching for my replacement.
It wasn’t until this moment though, that I realized how much working with these kids truly meant to me. We had grown so much together.
We were learning from each other, and suddenly I couldn’t imagine ever leaving them behind.
So I said some prayers, ditched my pride and rushed over to the head teachers office to beg for my job back.
I showed her the notes.
I told her everything.
The job is rough, and draining and easily the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.
But I knew I was the best person to do it.
Unfortunately, it was too late, and I know that now I’m going to have to live with the decision I made.
But wherever I end up, these kids taught me something incredible.
I don’t even know how to articulate what it is.
But I know one thing now.
Every moment I spend with them is precious, and fleeting.
And for as long as I’m allowed to stay there, I’m not going to waste a single one of them.
Not one. x
(c) Ingrid Johnson
You can find Ingrid at her blog The Two Stringed Ukulele. Thanks for sharing your teaching experiences Ingrid.