In eighth grade, I begged my mom to put me in another school.
I was a country girl plopped down in a city school.
I wore sweatshirts, and they wore Guess. I laced-up scuffed Reeboks, and they sported sparkling Keds. I played Madonna again and again, and they jammed out to the Beastie Boys. I knew about secret crushes, and they understood full-blown sex.
And somewhere in between my lack of multiple Swatches and relentless comments from the pom squad, I decided I was done.
My mom saw my misery, and enrolled me in the local Catholic school. Plaid uniforms, no pom squads, no dangly earrings, no cursing, and no Guess.
It was during my time as a member of this tiny Catholic class that I learned about community, and I learned about the gift of words. I participated in an activity that impacted me greatly, and I’ve done the same activity each year before Christmas as a way of showing my students how to give each other something valuable.
Now, I know you want to hear what kind of activity made the quiet girl with big hair and too much black, eye make-up feel loved, don’t you? Read on.
- On the board, create a list of positive character traits and words students could use to describe a friend.
- Count how many students are in class.
- Have students cut a piece of paper (or several sheets) into strips so each person in class will receive a strip.
- Ask students to write each of their peer’s names on a slip.
- Have students write one positive thing on each slip of paper.
- When students finish, tape each slip to a full piece of paper.
- Read over comments (just in case a not-so-positive one makes its way in).
- Add your own thoughts to each sheet.
- The next day, give each student a sealed envelope with their sheet of compliments.
A simple, free, and powerful gift kids can give each other. How do I know it works?
Amy, You are funny. I love it when you make me laugh, especially in mass when you make up words to the hymns you don’t know.
Amy, I think you are really smart. I don’t even have to pretend your spelling words are spelled right on your test.
Amy, Thanks for listening.
I remember. It’s been over twenty years, but I still remember.
Before Christmas break, have your students give each other something they will remember too, positive words.
Questions for you: What is the last sincere compliment you remember receiving? Do remember specific compliments your peers gave you as a child or teen?