So many things from summer camp life could transfer into and enhance classroom life. I really should remember that more often. Bring the joy and community of summer to the rest of the year? Yes, please.
One thing I have done in both settings on repeated occasions is what us camp counselors like to call, “Warm and Fuzzies.” I don’t know why I haven’t appropriated the same name in class, but I haven’t. Instead, I’ve called it “Mailboxes of Kindness.” It works like this: Every child gets a brown paper bag with their name on it. When there’s time, I let my kids decorate. If not, we move forward with the note-writing. Ahead of time, I slice pieces of paper into fourths so that the note length isn’t intimidating. Students take as many pieces of paper as they want and start writing. They write appreciations, thanks, and well-wishes for their peers, and then they deliver their finished notes to the mailboxes. We usually do it on one of the last days of school. It’s fun, reflective, and makes everyone feel good.
Well, most everyone. What was so interesting about this activity this year is that I for the first time really saw the ways in which it mingled with and was shaped by differing personalities. I don’t know why this was the first time I saw this happen, but it certainly caused me to pause and ponder.
-Rushed made twenty-four smiley faces and dropped one off in each mailbox. He was so proud to have made a note for everyone.
-Even more rushed dropped off blank notes for everyone.
-Family made notes for each of her sisters, who did not have mailboxes in our classroom, but who, as she assured me, do have a mailbox that they share with their parents at home.
-Anxious sat by her mailbox and just waited for notes to be dropped off, which meant she didn’t make very many to deliver.
-Hesitant wrote random words off the word wall and then signed her name on each note. This guaranteed that the notes were spelled correctly.
-Michievious wrote a note that said, “Dear Katie. U suk. U r dum.” Thank goodness I happen to look over his shoulder and catch it before that note got sent home in Katie’s mailbox…
Everyone went home with a relatively full mailbox, and the overall tone was definitely positive. But the variety of responses is something that I’ll remember next time. Maybe I’ll talk through a few of them with my next batch of students before they start their note-writing. Maybe I’ll let them talk more about the purpose of the activity first. Maybe I’ll share a few example notes, but I certainly don’t want to squash their creativity which sometimes happens when young kids see examples. Maybe I won’t make any changes and I’ll just let variety happen. With the exception of the “U suk” genre of notes, nothing else was really problematic. Just surprising. And I don’t think I mind surprising. Sometimes I even like it.