At the end of every school year, I like to give my students a gift. Over the past 14 years, I’ve given lots of different gifts, such as books, candy, bubbles, and sunglasses. Last year, though, instead of spending lots of money, I spent my time writing tootle notes to each of my students. I was surprised to see how much they loved this gift. It was a simple piece of paper, but it meant a lot to them.
This year, I wanted to do something different, but I also wanted it to be meaningful.
Over the past 2 years, blogging has become a part of my life. As a blogger, you put your words out there, not knowing who will read them. This part is a little scary. And most of the time, you have no idea how your words impact someone, but you continue to write. You trust that the words you have been given are meant to be shared with others for a reason. This is the life of a blogger.
Once in awhile, someone might share with you how your words have helped or encouraged them. These moments are gifts….little reminders that your words are making a difference. It’s because of these moments that I continue to write.
One of the things I love most about teaching is that every year is a fresh start. While I still think about my former students, I look forward to starting over each year with a new group.
A new group of students brings with them a new mix of personalities, strengths, and challenges. Because of this, every year is different. Every day is different.
You may teach in the same room from one year to the next, but your classroom is never the same. The people inside the space change the space.
Another school year is coming to an end. In 13 years, I’ve taught in 3 different buildings, 4 different classrooms, and have had the opportunity and privilege to teach over 300 students.
Even with all that experience, this has been the most challenging year of my teaching career. At times I have felt restless. Earlier this year, I heard Jill Briscoe speak and she said,
“You go where you’re sent, and you stay where you’re put, and you give what you have until you’re done.”
I don’t know if I will spend my entire working career in a classroom, but I do know that God hasn’t called me out of the classroom yet. And because of that, I continue to invest my time and energy into the students with whom I’ve been entrusted.
Even though I’m their teacher, this year, my students taught me an important lesson.
They helped me realize just how much of an influence teachers have over their students.
If we model love, compassion, patience, kindness, and respect to our students, they are more likely to be loving, compassionate, patient, kind, and respectful to others. Our students look to us and will follow our lead.
When thinking about what I could do to end the year and influence my students in a positive way, the phrase, “Speak love,” kept coming to mind.
I wanted my students to leave our classroom feeling loved and encouraged.
I wanted to speak words of affirmation over them, so that they would know how to do this for someone else.
And so I sat down and wrote “Tootle Notes” to each of my 23 students.
In case you’re wondering, a “tootle” is a specific compliment/praise. It is the opposite of a tattle. Throughout the year, I have written “Tootle Notes” to students when I see something praiseworthy, and students have written Tootle Notes to each other. They love giving and receiving Tootle Notes.
In these final Tootle Notes I wrote things such as:
Writing these notes reminded me about the positive qualities of my students and the progress they made this year. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget how far they’ve come.
When I was done, I had a sea of Tootle Notes and I couldn’t wait to share them with my students!
When I got to school, I gathered the kids on the carpet for a special “Tootle Time.”
One by one, the students sat in our special chair. I read their Tootle Notes aloud before giving them the actual notes to keep.
There is something powerful about hearing specific praise, not just reading it.
Seeing my students’ faces light up with smiles was wonderful, but what touched my heart the most was that they clapped loudly after each Tootle Note was read.
They cheered for their friends.
They celebrated each others’ successes.
They were proud of one another.
And I was proud to be their teacher.
One thing you may not know about the teaching profession is that we are often students ourselves. Throughout the year, we attend countless hours of professional development, trainings, and classes.
This year, many of our teacher in-service days have been focused on writing instruction. I’ve enjoyed implementing some of the new strategies into my classroom, and it’s been so nice to see my students excited about writing. One of my students recently shared, “I am special because I’m a good writer.” Identifying himself as a writer was such an encouragement to me because, as a kid, I never saw myself as a writer.
At times, I still struggle calling myself a writer. In fact, at our one of recent trainings, it came up that I’m a blogger. Our instructor said, “Oh, so you’re a writer.” I was so hesitant and said, “I guess so.” Others in the room spoke up and said, “Yes, she’s a writer.”
Sometimes we need others to help us see the gifts we have.
Words of encouragement can turn doubts into confidence.
Why have I been hesitant to call myself a writer? A few weeks ago, I was looking through some childhood scrapbooks, and I came across a paper that was folded. I opened it up and saw the results of my 9th grade proficiency tests. Back then, these were the tests you had to pass in order to graduate. The first thing I saw on the paper was that I had failed the writing portion of the proficiency test. Yep. I failed.
For an overachieving, straight-A student, this was not only shocking at the time, but it was embarrassing. It also caused me to doubt myself as a writer.
But now, looking back at that failing test grade, I laugh. I laugh because something I failed at is now one of my strengths. Ironic, isn’t it?
I wish I could go back and tell my 9th grade self:
That failing score may have shaken my confidence, but I kept writing anyways. I’m so thankful I did, because I would later discover that writing gave me a safe place to express my thoughts.
Writing helped me regain my voice, and it would also help me encourage others to use their voices.
Hearing my students call themselves writers makes me smile. After all these years, I can finally say, “I’m a writer too.”
How has writing impacted my life? Check out these blogs:
Pages of Love
A Blog About Blogging
The Reasons I Write
I'm an ordinary introvert who loves an extraordinary God.