Every afternoon, a teacher in our school leads an end-of-the-day activity with the entire community. These vary widely – we’ve done everything from music and movie trivia to musical chairs to a flash game of Apples to Apples. Nearly anything goes.
Tuesdays are my days, and I had settled into a movie-related theme months ago that the community seems to like. As yesterday was the last Tuesday with this year’s seniors, though, I decided to do something a little different.
In the past, we’ve had what we call “sticky note days” at our school. These are randomly chosen days where, throughout the day, students write positive things on Post-Its and stick them to one another. I love sticky note days; the notes are always positive (and often surprising), they can be anonymous, and the small space forces the students to really condense the things they want to say. In this spirit, I cut a bunch of copy paper into smaller squares and invited the group to write love notes to each other.
“We are influenced for good by a lot of people,” I told them, “but rarely do we take the time out to tell them how much they mean to us. The seniors are leaving on Friday, and I wanted to give you all an opportunity to say something to them – and to anyone else you want – to let them know that they mean something to you.”
The bulk of the group took advantage of the opportunity, and I was surprised that I ended up having to get more paper.
This morning, as I was handing out love notes during the chaos of the start of day, I overheard one student complaining about the activity. “It makes some people feel bad,” she said, “because not everyone gets notes.”
She’s right, of course; not everyone DID receive notes, her among them. I think she’s missing something important in her disdainful assessment, though. The students who didn’t get notes this time around were, by and large, the students who don’t go out of their way for others. The kids who didn’t receive notes are the kids who criticize other students, look down on them, or decline to participate fully in the things we do together. These are the kids who don’t eat lunch with anyone other than their tight group or who – like the girl who spoke her complaint – openly speak ill of other students, often within their hearing.
I understand that it’s not a one-for-one formula, but I have discovered that, generally, one gets out of a situation what one puts in. If you want to be liked, you’ve got to open up a little and make yourself available. You’ve got to practice some generosity, some patience, and some forbearance. You’ve got to treat others kindly and foster the kind of goodwill toward them that you’d like returned to you. I didn’t point this out to the girl – I’m already on eggshells with her as it is, and she’s not in a place where she can hear these things from me – but I’m hoping that she does some thinking about it.