There are 5 things I hate in this world and one of them is high-stakes testing. I don’t like what it does to my students. They become either neurotic or completely apathetic during testing time and the mood in the classroom has been completely destroyed. The Room of Awesome is supposed to be a positive learning environment, but what are you supposed to do to raise the kids spirits right before you hand them an assessment that could get them in a lot of trouble at home?
A few years ago, I ran across this post on Pinterest about giving students pencils with positive messages on them. We were about to enter Final Exams and I thought this would be a great present for my Honors students that year. Problem was I didn’t have enough time to get the pencils before the exam so I made my own.
Instead of keeping a pile of spare pencils for the test, I wrote a positive message on them and left them on the desk for each student. Some students left them behind, some traded them for ones they liked better. I think the best one was the student who tweeted to me the following year telling me that she went to take her SAT, found the pencil in the bottom of her bag, and made her smile.
The following year I wanted to do this again, but expand it to all my students. Problem was I had 156 students that year and there was no way I was writing out messages on that many pencils. Instead, I grabbed a whiteboard marker and wrote on their desks right before they entered for the exam.
The students loved this! Many came in and wandered around the room reading the messages and sitting at the desk with the message they liked the best. While this was a much easier method for getting the positive messages out, it was cumbersome to write on every desk before each exam, the messages wiped away as the kids were taking the exam so I had to rewrite them for each class, and the students couldn’t take the messages with them.
I used the whiteboard marker method in 2015 as well, but wanted something new this year. I happened to find a pack of small Post-It notes in the bottom of one of my desk drawers this summer. This would be perfect because I could write a lot of them in advance and hand them to the students as they walked in the door.
I quickly ran out of fun phrases so I Googled “phrases to tell someone they are awesome” and came across this site. My favorite was “You’re a glitterbomb of glory”, “You are a polished opal in a pewter world”, and “You’re my personal Yoda.”
Did every kid appreciate the gesture? Absolutely not. Most smiled. Some put the Post-It on their phone or water bottle to take with them. Some students asked if I get upset when people don’t appreciate my random acts of kindness. To be honest, it doesn’t really bother me. I didn’t do this to change the lives of every one of my students. I did it to change the outlook of as many as I could. If it was only 1, then at least one more person had a better day because of me.