A teacher’s lesson from children: Good news in Midland

Each school year, when preparing the classroom for the arrival of the children, I would decorate a small bulletin board with the heading “Super Star”. It was the space reserved for children, during the draw of their name. They could bring special items from home for the painting that awaited them. They brought photos, certificates, ribbons, etc. The items were left for about three or four days and then another name was drawn. It was their time to talk about themselves and answer questions.

I felt then, and still feel, that it was important for every child to take advantage of this opportunity and feel very special. Even shy children have come forward and grown through this activity. Some children wanted me to sit next to them, others were happy on their own while they shared.

One year, when I was in third grade, I had an idea that I hoped would help them look at our community and, rather than focusing on themselves, become aware of the accomplishments and the lives of others. In January, after the Christmas holidays, they entered the room with a new title on a larger bulletin board. It said, “Good news in Midland.” This caught their attention and they gathered around, whispering and wondering what it was all about.

Here is the letter I sent home to the parents, explaining the new activity.

“Dear Parents,

Sharing is always an important part of our day. Many teaching skills take place at this time. Plus, I’m a strong believer in unity, setting the tone, and caring about each other. The children did well in this activity. Thank you for your home help. As we enter the second half of the school year, I feel a great responsibility towards the children and I believe that the sharing time must take a new direction. We have, for the most part, focused on ourselves. While this “me” will always have a place and a value in our class, the “sharing board” can become a competitive and materialistic activity, if it is prolonged. Therefore, we discussed a positive change. The children are delighted and can’t wait to get started! Each child will have an assigned sharing day once a week. The child will read the Midland Daily News at home. We will bring to school that day, “good news” from the town of Midland. It is truly an opportunity for sharing but rather than focusing on ourselves, we will be applauding another for a job well done. It will help if it is someone whose address I am able to locate.

We will take this activity a little further. The “Good News” article will be pinned to our bulletin board, along with others, for our enjoyment. At the end of the week, each of us will write a letter to “Our Midland Star”. I will then send all of our letters (including mine) to our person or place of business which we have recognized among the third graders of Blessed Sacrament School. I designed special stationery just for their letters and the kids drew themselves on the stationery. Their precious faces are along the border of the fixed. It’s above and beyond any stationery you’ll find in a store. Imagine receiving an envelope with 30 letters written in the hands and hearts of children!

This activity combines reading, writing, religion, social studies, spelling, speaking, English and much more. I hope it expands our world as we appreciate the accomplishments of others and see the good all around us. This may encourage us to set our own goals.

Parents, I know we will have your interest and support as we have for all our activities in the past. We cannot do this alone. Your encouragement in everything we do is the reason we enjoy happy and successful days. Please come in and see our bulletin board anytime! It belongs to you too!

Examples of good news include: a local student receiving an award or special achievement, a business that has been recognized, local student art or literature, a photo of a citizen at work or on the train to play, a birthday or anniversary, or any other success story of interest to the child.

What a lesson for me! Of course, children enjoy sharing their own interests and accomplishments with their class family. I have learned, however, that they have a desire to reach out to others in their own community. They deserved this opportunity. I didn’t keep any of the letters, although I would have liked to have them.

Try to imagine for a minute, what they had to say when someone was celebrating a 100e birthday! I smile thinking about it. The letters were written on the stationery without any changes on my part. Knowing that their letters would not be turned over for editing gave them the freedom to express their thoughts. I’m sure somewhere in our little town someone’s day brightened up when their mail arrived. Very often a note or even a small gift was delivered to the office for the third grade class by the lucky recipient of their letters. I can still see the children gathered around the bulletin board discussing the articles and the people involved.

Although they are only 8 and 9 years old, they have become aware of the positive life of the citizens of their own community. I was very proud of them and they were aware of it, but the important thing was that they were proud of them! Nice job kids! Thank you for teaching me well!

Perhaps a teacher reading my column will decide to incorporate this into their own curriculum. What a blessing that would be!

Sharon Capriccioso taught at Blessed Sacrament School for over 20 years. Here she writes about the lessons learned from her students. His lessons will appear the fourth weekend of each month in the Opinion section.

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