The announcements section just confounded me. What was there to announce? “Hey, kids, you’re in class!”? Our study skills calendar– a transparency that we use to begin every class with that lists the standards, objective, ESLRs, homework and agenda– also had this little space for anything that I might feel compelled to announce. I felt awkward leaving it blank– it was like I was admitting to not having anything exciting to say, and it was just all homework, standards, homework, standards all day, everyday.
Finally I decided to put positive affirmations there. Everyday the announcement was some positive quote or choice tidbit. For example, I often put that we should only focus on what’s happening this instant, because we can’t do anything about what happened during the passing period and we can’t do anything about the immediate future. Or everyday is a new day and it allows us to start over. Or if someone is mean to you, it’s a reflection of their unhappiness and how miserable they are, and not a reflection of you. Everyday at the beginning of each class I doled out my little nugget.
Slowly, the affirmations began to take on a life of their own. Somedays, they were for me instead of the kids. If I felt like ripping someone’s head off, I wrote an affirmation about kindness and patience. Since I was preaching this message, I would have to act it. The kids picked up on it, too. If the day’s affirmation was about remaining calm and keeping composure, one student would ask, “That’s for you isn’t it?” I nodded. “Yeah, I could tell. You’re really on edge right now.” If I forgot to write one, they would ask, “Do you not love us anymore, Ms. L.?”
Sometimes they had an unexpected effect. One day, struggling for something new and short to state, I wrote, “You are significant and special.” After announcing how significant and special I thought they all were, I asked, “What are you?!” I fully expected to hear a loud Marine-style reply, “SIGNIFICANT AND SPECIAL! (SIR!)” Had they done that, what happened next wouldn’t have happened. Instead they mumbled, mumbled, groaned. I zeroed on a kid, “John, what are you?” He stared at me. I repeated my question. He sighed, “Significant and special.” I grinned, “Yes, you are! Aurora, what are you?” I went around the room and basically demanded that each of them tell me that they are significant and special. One boy’s jaw worked as he shook his head no. “Justin, you are significant and special. Now, tell it to me.” His voice cracked when he finally told me. I got a little angry at that point. Why did I have a cute, charming, talented, intelligent boy on the verge of tears and thinking he was not significant or special? Why were the people in his life letting him down? Why does he have to just hear it from me when I put in the announcements section on a whim?
The affirmation announcements continued the entire term, and I imagined that they all thought it was hokey. Then I read one quiet boy’s reflection of the class. He wrote that in my class he learned that everyday was a new day to prosper and do well. He could always do his best everyday, and if he messed up, there was always a new moment to make amends and become a better person. He also liked reading Othello outside. He was the only one who wrote about the daily affirmations, but they meant something to him. It is amazing how the smallest and most trivial of things (me not wanting a blank announcement) can turn into so much.