Guys, I’ve gotta be honest. It’s not always easy being kind.
This might make me sound like a horrible human being, and an even worse teacher, but when I set out to do a day of giving for my students, it was a S T R U G G L E.
That’s me. Or at least I bet that’s what you’re thinking: “Giving? A struggle? For a teacher? What a grinch!”
Let me rewind.
This year, I was assigned to teach one block (for you non-educators, that’s two consecutive class periods with the same students) of seventh grade English Language Arts. I usually teach ninth graders, and let me tell you – there’s a vast difference between seventh graders and ninth graders.
Seventh graders are little, pre-pubescent, and don’t quite fit in to a “high school” setting just yet. They know they’re no longer “children,” but they haven’t a clue how to act like “young adults.” They’re clumsily trying to navigate the weird waters of the in-between. They need structure every second of every lesson; otherwise, they’re not sure where to channel that awkward energy.
Ninth graders are in the process of getting used to the added responsibility and heavier workload of high school. They’re mildly independent, although if left to their own devices for too long, they can still find themselves in trouble. They’re painfully self-aware, and they just want people to “get” them (Hence the “UGH, you just don’t GET ME!” freshman ‘tude.).
Ninth graders are my people. I “get” them – I’ve taught them for nine years. I don’t “get” seventh graders. It’s been an immense challenge for me to teach my sweet, ungainly, odd band of seventh graders thus far.
So when Kim of Yes, Wear That reached out to some Pittsburgh blogger girls about doing a A Day of Giving/Acts of Kindness post, I knew I wanted to participate and that my “giving” was going to somehow revolve around my seventh grade kiddos. What can I say? I believe in “leaning in” to a challenge.
My seventh grade class is comprised of 17 students with widely varying ability and maturity levels, exceptionalities, and socio-economic backgrounds. They love to tell stories, tap their pencils, create intentional choruses of sniffles and coughs, whistle, sing songs about Pokemon (The NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!), and derail my lessons. Most of them couldn’t tell you the definition of a verb.
So when I decided that for my Day of Giving, I was going to write each of my seventh graders a personalized Christmas card/thank you note, I had a rough time. I wanted to make sure I thanked each student for something they contributed to the class, and I wanted to point out their positive traits. I wracked my brain for two days before I even started writing, because I wanted to make sure this was something I *could* do. After writing for 20 minutes here, 10 minutes there, for two more days, I finished the notes. I bought candy canes, too. Positive vibes are always best accompanied by sugar.
On Friday of last week, as soon as one of my students walked in, she spied the candy canes. She asked – repeatedly – when she was going to get one (That’s a seventh grader for ya!). I waited until we only had about ten minutes left in the class to distribute the notes and candy canes. I knew if I gave them out any sooner, it’d be bedlam (Remember, structure. I’m learning!).
But as soon as I did give out the notes, my room was the quietest it had been during third and fourth period all year…until one student quietly said, “No teacher has ever given me a Christmas card before.”
I heard some whispers of, “What’s yours say?” “Mine says I’m smart!” “Mine says she’s grateful that I always participate!”
And, at least for that moment, my heart grew three sizes.
Earlier that week, one of my seventh graders asked if my protein shake was eggnog. Soon, all of my students were asking what eggnog was. Many of them had never heard of it, and sixteen of them had never had it.
Tomorrow, this grinch is throwing an eggnog Christmas party in her seventh grade classroom. 😉
Read about other, non-grinchy Days of Giving around the ‘burgh:
- Blue Bells and Lipstick
- Mint and Mo
- Sparkle Everyday
- The Surznick Common Room
- Wear Wag Repeat
- Wellesley and King
- Yes, Wear That
Have you done any random acts of kindness or given back in any way this season? We’d love to hear about it! Use the hashtag #pghgivesback on social media!