This starts my 22nd year of teaching middle school. Yesterday was quite possibly one of the most impactful days I have ever had.
I tried a new activity called “The Baggage Activity”. I asked the kids what it meant to have baggage and they mostly said it was hurtful stuff you carry around on your shoulders.
I asked them to write down on a piece of paper what was bothering them, what was heavy on their heart, what was hurting them, etc. No names were to be on a paper. They wadded the paper up, and threw it across the room.
They picked up a piece of paper and took turns reading out loud what their classmate wrote. After a student read a paper, I asked who wrote that, and if they cared to share.
I’m here to tell you, I have never been so moved to tears as what these kids opened up and about and shared with the class.
Things like suicide, parents in prison, drugs in their family, being left by their parents, death, cancer, losing pets (one said their gerbil died cause it was fat, we giggled?) and on and on.
The kids who read the papers would cry because what they were reading was tough. The person who shared (if they chose to tell us it was them) would cry sometimes too. It was an emotionally draining day, but I firmly believe my kids will judge a little less, love a little more, and forgive a little faster.
This bag hangs by my door to remind them that we all have baggage. We will leave it at the door. As they left I told them, they are not alone, they are loved, and we have each other’s back.
I am honored to be their teacher.
Credit: Karen Wunderlich Loewe