2019 Round Up: Best Educator Stories from Around the Web
Educators give their time, money, and sometimes the clothes off their backs to make sure their students not only learn, but are also cared for. Many times teachers go unnoticed for their level of caring. Here are some inspiring stories of teachers who went above and beyond in the care of their students.
Mental Health Matters
Erin Castillo is an English teacher in California. She wanted to check up on the emotional well-being of her students, so when she saw a mental health check-in chart from another teacher, she decided to make her own version. Each day her high school students are given the opportunity to place their name on the back of a sticky note and place it on the Mental Health Check In chart. This gives them an opportunity to communicate their feelings and emotions without having to seek out an adult. Erin then has used the chart to check in with her students and even have counselors work with students. It has shown her students that it is okay to not be okay all the time. They can see that every person goes through ups and downs daily. This is an especially great exercise for teenagers who experience a wide variety of emotions regularly. They have been able to express those feelings and in turn an adult has been able to help them sort through them. Erin has been credited all over Instagram and Facebook by other teachers who have used her idea.
Personal Baggage Activity
On the first day of school, Karen Loewe, a middle school teacher in Oklahoma, had her students complete the “baggage activity” as an ice breaker to start the school year. After explaining what baggage was, she had students take out a piece of paper and write their baggage on it without using their names. They then balled up the papers and threw them around the room. Students then picked up a paper closest to them and read it out loud. They ended up reading them all and hearing what each person in the room was going through in their personal lives. The list of baggage was extensive from parents being in prison, family deaths, cancer, being orphaned, to drugs, and so much more. "It was an emotionally draining day, but I firmly believe my kids will judge a little less, love a little more, and forgive a little faster," she wrote. This activity has also been repeated around the country as teachers try to help their students understand and relate to other people.
The Big Chop
When Texas kindergarten teacher Shannon Grimm noticed one of her students acting extra shy and not wanting to take off her hat, she knew something was up. This student Prisilla had recently gotten her hair cut into a pixie style, and her classmates were making fun of her, saying she looked like a boy. Shannon explained to her students that both boys and girls can have short or long hair and even provided examples for them. This didn’t seem to be enough to stop Prisilla from being teased, so Shannon took matters into her own hands and cut her waist-length hair to match Prisilla’s. Shannon felt self-conscious about her short hair, but it was totally worth it to show her students that we should all feel cared about no matter what we look like. It was also a great lesson in treating others the way you want to be treated even if they are unkind.
To Walk In His Shoes
For fifth graders, graduating from elementary school to middle school is a huge accomplishment and milestone. Vohn Lewis was substitute teaching in a Virginia school when he found out that fifth grade graduation was taking place. One of the students broke his shoe right before the ceremony, and his teachers were frantically trying to find a way to fix it. Vohn asked what size of shoe the boy wore, and upon discovering they wore the same size shoe, he gave the student the shoes off his feet. The student then proudly walked across the stage to receive his diploma. Lewis was a great representation for the young men of what it means to be gracious and taking care of others.
Random Acts of Kindness
Joanne Miller, a fourth-grade teacher in Florida, has set out to prevent bullying and spread kindness using her Kindness Squad. On Fridays, Miller’s Kindness Squad lines up outside of the school to cheer on and welcome students to school. They also share random acts of kindness throughout the week during lunches and recesses. The Kindness Squad helps teach students to not only be kind to one another, but it also prevents bullying. She encourages her classes to give each other compliments on anything from clothes to good grades to a nice smile. This shows students that caring about others can help them feel better about themselves. Later in the year, students take their kindness from their classroom to a local nursing home and share kindness with the residents. Joanne hopes her students will carry their kindness from her classroom to their homes, community, and further into their lives.
Ceremony of Giving
When Kelli got engaged to her now-husband Matt, she knew her wedding would be very different. As a first-grade teacher in Florida, she saw the needs of students, and it broke her heart. So, instead of asking for the normal wedding gifts, she and Matt registered for school supplies and uniforms. Guests were given the gender and age of a child to buy supplies for, then the guests filled a backpack with those supplies and brought them to Kelli and Matt’s wedding. When over 70 backpacks were filled and donated to a local school for the first day of school, the newlyweds knew they had made the right decision.
Snow Day Meals
For students in Shelby County, Kentucky, going to school is a necessity as all the students receive a free breakfast and lunch due to financial struggles and food challenges. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue, but when the school was closed for two days in a row due to a snow storm, several middle school teachers decided to make and take meals to as many students as possible. They made sandwiches, purchased groceries, and even went to restaurants to get food then divided and delivered as many meals as they could to their students. These students had no food otherwise, so the teachers timely arrival at as many houses as they could get to was much appreciated. That night, one of the teachers sent out a schoolwide email and a Facebook post to share the plight of their kindergarten through 7th grade students, and the next day they received many donations from local families and businesses. The teachers once again delivered meals to students on a snow day. These teachers were able to show their care for students to the community and build trust with those students.
All throughout the year, teachers give of themselves and give whatever they have to make sure students are looked after both academically and emotionally. Hopefully, as you read these stories, you’ve been encouraged to keep up the good work even though no one may seem to notice. Students notice. Parents notice. Keep loving on those kids!
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