Saturday, February 04, 2017

Writing to each students and to each other! Relationship, Resiliency, Recognition!

This morning I read Bill Ferriter's post challenging his readers to start every faculty meeting writing to students .  In his post  Bill suggest

....starting every faculty meeting with the same agenda item:  Writing positive notes to two kids that are hand delivered the next morning. ....
Imagine a room full of teachers spending a few minutes together reflecting on the strengths of individual students.  Imagine a building where written expressions of gratitude became a norm instead of an exception to the rule.  Imagine the positive message sent about priorities when writing to kids was the first thing done whenever teachers gathered together.  And imagine the frame of mind teachers would be in for the rest of the faculty meeting or professional development session after thinking about the kids that they serve. 
And THEN imagine the joy that would ripple through your building on the morning after a faculty meeting or professional development session.   
Have 30 staff members?  Sixty students are going to start the next day with a tangible reminder that they ARE successful learners and that their teachers DO believe in them.  Wouldn’t that make your school a more joyful place?  Isn’t that what we mean when we talk about building a community of learners?  Aren’t kids more likely to respond to hand-written notes from the important adults in their lives than to the PBIS points and trinkets that you are currently giving to encourage positive behaviors in your school?1
Check out the rest of Bill’s post  for some great ideas of how to put this ‘intent’ into action!

This post started me down memory lane about a few similar ideas I’ve seen implemented by colleagues or participated in myself.

Write to your students!  Build relationship with students!

I remember my colleague Paul Pollard.  He use to print out two sets of mailing labels with the addresses of each of his students at the beginning of the year and keep them tucked in his plan book.  He also kept some postcards size cards handy and he would  write out a few cards at a time throughout the semester  and mail them out until until the labels were all gone.  That way he knew that each of his students got a personal postcard from him with some positive thoughts every semester.

Write to your colleagues! Build resiliency!

Another similar memory I had was the year that our principal Marge desGrosselier handed everyone orange index cards.  She held up a blue index card and 10 orange index cards at the beginning of the faculty meeting.  After sharing research that suggested that it takes 10 positive statements (orange cards)  to offset the feeling of 1 negative comment (blue cards).  She challenged us to fill each other’s mailboxes that year with orange cards.  It was super awesome all year to get an appreciative comment from a fellow staff member in my mailbox at unexpected times during the school year!  I believe that the theme for the school kickoff that year was resiliency - and the orange cards were a tangible ways for staff to help each other become more resilient.

Encourage students to write, too! Help them show appreciation and recognition.

Finally, I reminisced  about one of my favorite learning activities, each May.  Every time National Teacher Day approached, I took the opportunity to review letter writing formats and asked each student to write an appreciation letter to a teacher that had a positive impact on their lives. This was one assignment I loved correcting! Basically students revised it until it was mailable.  

Sometimes the letters were to someone in the same district and the letters went out via interoffice mail. Sometimes the letters were to someone the students had as teachers a decade ago or more.  I would do my best to help track the teacher down and mailed out every letter I could.  There were so many ‘wins’  to this activity from academic to socio-emotional.  And quite often I would have a student share in delight that they got a letter back!

Thanks Bill for a walk down memory lane!