I recently had my students make their last bulletin board of the year. I envisioned it turning out one way, but it morphed into something much more and I was blown away by their conversations about it.
I had it say, “One Word Reflections,” and in one word my girls were to answer either, “How will you remember this year,” or “How will you be remembered this year.” I did this with my 7th graders first and so many of their answers were unexpectedly negative. I was so surprised and so disappointed for them. They wrote things like: unlikable, drama, sad, gossip, and negative. I knew there had been stressful academic times, and I knew almost all of their social circles had changed (some more than once, and some very dramatically by adult standards, let alone by 7th grade girl standards), but I didn’t realize for some of them how overwhelming and all-consuming it had been for them.
Some were positive, mostly those who had answered the “how will you be remembered question,” but there weren’t that many from 7th grade. My 6th and 8th grade’s answers were (thankfully) much more balanced.
Anyway, after seeing all their responses, we had a really deep and lengthy conversation about why their negative feelings were taking over their positive ones, what I as a teacher could do to help (especially looking towards next year since I’ll have all the same girls again), and what they could do themselves and for/with each other to help turn things around. We talked about how some of this will continue to matter, and some of it will fade as summer comes. We talked about how it’s natural for friends to come and go and for social circles to change, but there are better ways of doing it/handling it (and sometimes worse ways) so this year was a growing year for many of them, and a lot of them learned important lessons in communication (especially via social media) that they won’t be repeating next year. After about an hour long conversation, an hour where I was immensely proud of how respectfully they communicated with each other and how much they opened up, I had them journal for the last part of class so that they could get anything else out that they hadn’t wanted to verbalize.
I think one of my early bulletin boards in the fall will be something about goals they have for the year, and what type of year they want it to be, also only in one word. I’ll definitely be interested to see the mindset of my kids as they come back for a new school year, to see how they might have grown/matured over the summer, and then we can save their words and compare them at the end of the year to how they think the year turned out. That’s the plan, but clearly it will go in a direction the girls unintentionally drive it in 🙂