Thursday, June 20, 2013

Helping Students Choose2Matter - Part 1

Power to the Peaceful
As the school year began, way back in August, I placed a question before my students and asked them to consider it throughout the year: "How will you choose to matter?" At first I thought it wouldn't be a hard question for my students to answer. I teach at a Catholic school and our parish motto is to "Hear the Gospel and make a difference." They understand the idea of making a difference. We have school and parish fundraisers and we bring in donations of many types of necessities throughout the year (clothing, school supplies, food items).

But asking students "How will you choose to matter?" made it much more personal. The idea of making a difference was becoming a reality that would be placed square on their shoulders. And that was just a bit outside their comfort zone.

So I thought we should start with something that they would be comfortable with. I asked them to write about how they choose to matter to the people in their own lives: friends, family, classmates. And what they produced became our first bulletin board of the school year:

I loved reading their reflections on how they matter to their friends and families. There were comments about helping out around the house, helping siblings with homework, and sharing a smile with a perfect stranger.
"I matter to my friends because I respect them. I matter to my family because I stand up for them. I matter to strangers because I listen to them and respect them." 
"I matter to my friends because whenever they feel down or lonely, I am always there to listen and make them feel better."  
"By respecting my parents when they are busy, and spending time with my friends, I show that I care about the people I know and that, in this world, everyone matters."

International Dot Day

In my last blog post, Release Their Creativity, I wrote about how my students and I were preparing to celebrate International Dot Day in September. And part of that preparation involved discussing how each of them would "make their mark and make it matter." Students came up with a lengthy list of ideas of how they can make a difference in their world (which you can read in my previous post). Most of them were environmentally-minded ideas: a no-trash day, create going green brochures, turn off the electricity for an hour (Earth Hour). One of my favorite ideas was to smile at one person each and every day. A simple yet potentially powerful idea.

But the most poignant moment of Dot Day came when I grabbed a beach ball and a marker, and we stepped outside onto the lawn near middle school. When we were planning for Dot Day, one of the groups suggested having a ball that each student would sign their name on and then tell why they matter to the world. After they were finished, they would toss the ball to another student who would repeat the process. At first I thought this would be a fairly easy activity and we would be finished in ten minutes or so.

I was wrong.

It was much easier for the kids to write down their thoughts about how they matter to friends and family, even knowing that they would be displayed on a bulletin board, than it was to stand up in front of all of their friends and say "I choose to matter by..." To be honest, it was a little painful at first. I started things off by signing my name to the beach ball and saying, "I choose to matter by teaching and caring about middle school students." I tossed the ball into the air and the person who caught it had to do the same. Signing his name was the easy part. "I choose to matter"

And we waited. Uncomfortably.

Now, I should add that these are kids who are very comfortable around each other. Most of them have been together since kindergarten and they get along really well. Remarkably well! I wondered if perhaps some of their discomfort with this idea was because they didn't know me all that well yet. I think, however, that this idea was still too far outside of their comfort zone.

It wound up taking us almost 45 minutes to complete the activity. But I believe it was time well spent. Plus, we had a constant reminder of that day as the beach ball we had all signed sat in the back of the classroom all year long. Every couple of days or so, one student or another would pick up the ball, look it over, perhaps toss it up in the air, and then set it back down.

As International Dot Day is a celebration of creativity and the creative mind, we also spent a good part of our day making and drawing and painting. But our day definitely had one central theme:

The year was really just getting started. And so was our Choose2Matter campaign! In Part 2 of this post, I will share a few other activities we did during our year that helped my students begin to think of how they will "make their mark and make it matter."

To learn more about Choose2Matter, visit the following links:

To help with the Choose2Matter movement, visit Choose2Matter - Indiegogo

1 comment:

joan said...

I love this! I hope you don't mind that I added this post to my Pinterest board. I plan to shamelessly "steal" everything for the new school year. I think 8th graders will run with these ideas. Thank you!