Every spring I observe my 8th Graders responding to the impending end of their Middle School years at Boulan Park. Almost all become nervous but their nervousness manifests in different ways--a few may act out more, others try to act cool and put on a brave face. I have been searching for a way to help my students process these feelings but haven't found anything when the idea suddenly came to me last week! I tried it out and believe it was successful. We analyzed the concept of "legacy".
Students defined the term and then wrote several reflections on different aspects of their legacy at Boulan over the course of a week and a half and culminated on the last day of school. We had 20 minute classes and that time was the perfect opportunity to write thank you notes.
I started the class by asking for highlights of their promotion assembly and party the previous day. I pointed out that the day was about them and that all of the hard work and effort from parents and staff members was needed to make the day go smoothly. I then said today is about giving back to others and cementing their legacy in the form of a thank you note.
I printed half sheets of paper with the prompt "I couldn't leave Boulan without thanking you for..." and gave one to each student. Every student completed at least one and I handed the completed notes out to staff members at the end of the day. All staff groups were represented--teachers, office staff, kitchen staff members all had notes written for them. One student wrote 5 sentences for his Spanish teacher completely in Spanish--what an impactful way to clearly demonstrate all that he's learned from her this year! The notes were touching, funny, and a strong reminder of how the "little things" we do for our students really aren't so little--our students remember and appreciate our efforts. Another student wanted to thank a teacher that had retired last year (a current teacher took a picture of the note and texted it to the retired teacher.) These notes were a great reminder that kindness does matter and that we impact others.
In reflection, I am so excited to have pieced together this Legacy Project. Next year my students and I will stretch this reflection out through most of 4th Quarter--I think this will help to at least minimize their nervousness, give us the vocabulary to use around the concept of Legacy, and give students a positive way to process the change from Middle School to High School.