The Lesson My Students Taught Me
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.
5/22/2017 09:24:23 pm
This just brought tears to my eyes! The love you have shown to these kids is reaping eternal rewards - for you and them! Those words will shape their lives and make them aspire to be so much more. I guess that is just what love does. So beautiful!!
5/22/2017 10:26:13 pm
I hope so, Julie! It was interesting to see that for many kids, it was hard for them to sit and receive praise. At first, it made them uncomfortable, but by the end they were smiling and excited. Many of them came up afterwards and told me, "thank you." It was so sweet....
5/22/2017 09:42:15 pm
You are an amazing teacher, Julie. What a great way to share God's love with your students by encouraging them through the Tootle notes!
5/22/2017 10:29:29 pm
Thanks, Andrea! God gave me the idea...I just followed His prompting. I think this will be my new end of the school year tradition.
5/22/2017 09:56:25 pm
Oh how I love this!! ❤️
5/22/2017 10:31:01 pm
And I had fun writing the Tootle Notes (and saying, "Tootle Time")! :)
5/22/2017 10:04:49 pm
Julie, you are gift to your students. They are blessed to be in your class. I know that some of those notes were probably harder to write than others, but you always find the best in everyone and make them feel amazing. They will remember their moment to shine for the rest of their lives!
5/22/2017 10:46:01 pm
Yes, some of the Tootle Notes were a little more challenging to write than others, but it honestly didn't take as long as I thought it would. This year, I have several of your former students. It's because of all your hard work last year that they have made so much progress this year. I love that you continue to check in and ask about them. That's a sign of a great teacher who truly cares.
5/22/2017 10:18:54 pm
Julie, you are awesome! I love your teaching heart and the love you have for your "kids." You never mention why it was such a challenging year for you, but by the time I read this blog (and probably by the time you wrote all those "Tootles"), the challenges seemed to be not so big anymore. That's probably about the moment Christ took over...love you!
5/22/2017 11:06:46 pm
Thanks, Laura! Back in January, instead of making a New Years Resolution, I picked 1 word to focus on. This year I picked "Look." You can read more about it here:
5/22/2017 10:24:07 pm
Julie thank you for being such an amazing inspiration! You gave your kids a gift they will carry in their ❤️ forever. You're an amazing teacher and have been a tremendous role model. Congratulations on another successful year!!
5/22/2017 11:11:59 pm
I appreciate your kind words, Jenny! We never know the impact our words will have on someone. Your words continue to encourage me.
5/24/2017 10:57:08 am
Julie--I know that you have taught your children so much this year in the field of academic knowledge, but I so believe that the impact of what you do in the category of building self esteem and self respect will have a far greater effect on their lives in the future! God bless you for being the beautiful person you are--inside and outside!! 💜
5/24/2017 09:21:30 pm
Thanks, Bonnie! It's so great to see a student become more confident. When we share with others the positive qualities we see in them, it helps them realize they have something important to offer the world.
1/15/2018 10:02:19 pm
Thank you, Julie, for sharing this! You've given your students such a wonderful learning opportunity and gift! One they have to carry with them and look back on to help them during tough times. They also have a positive model of giving praise rather than criticism. I'd love to share this activity with my teachers. :-)
1/16/2018 11:15:36 am
Thanks, Cate! The longer I teach the more I realize how important it is for students to hear specific praise and encouragement. What's neat to see is when they don't just receive it, but when they get excited to give praise to others. I usually do a mini-lesson at the beginning of the year about how to write a tootle note (and include sentence starters). I always have blank copies of tootle notes available in the classroom for students to use (you can use any paper, though). Every day, without prompting, several students usually write a tootle note to someone. It's a small act, but it makes a huge impact.
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I'm an ordinary introvert who loves an extraordinary God.