“It makes me feel like I can do anything!” – Window & Mirror in 2nd Grade

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I recently keynoted the second “What Great Educators Do Differently” Conference in Houston. I had the pleasure of meeting Jillian Burkhart, a second grade teacher in Keller, TX.  Jillian immediately began implementing some of the concepts she learned at the conference in her classroom. Follow Jillian’s Twitter feed to see some of her students’ remarkable work, and read the guest post below about their experience with the “Window and Mirror” activity from Classroom Habitudes.

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After hearing Angela Maiers present at the WGEDD Conference in Houston, one of my goals was to try the mirror and window activity with my class. What a powerful analogy for my 2nd graders. 

  • We started by folding the paper in half and drawing a semi-circle to cut out. 
  • Then we wrote “mirror” at the bottom of the page and talked about how mirrors reflect, and how in our activity the mirror would reflect what we believe our individual strengths to be. 
  • As a continuous improvement classroom, we use continuous improvement quality tools to evaluate on the processes and procedures that are in place which directly or indirectly impact our success. This includes reflecting on our own behaviors and perceptions to improve our learning and increase our success, both independently and collectively.
  • Students wrote their strengths on their papers. For some it was very difficult.
  • Next, students rotated from table to table to share their thoughts about why others were special, unique, and important to them, our class, and our school.
  • Prior to giving feedback, we discussed the importance of giving specific encouragement, rather than writing the same generic feedback for each student.
  • Once students were finished, we wrote the word window at the bottom of the page and we talked about how others see us.
  • We discussed the difference between confidence and ego/arrogance, and how it is important to build each other up with our words, rather than tear each other down.
  • To close the lesson, we talked about the necessity of being who we are and acknowledging that we have a unique contribution the world needs! If we choose not to shine and not to believe that we matter, our talents and gifts are wasted.

The neatest thing was how the students chose to see the good in each other. We talked about how some of us may never have heard a word of encouragement from a classmate, a family member, a teacher, etc. We talked about how that might make us feel, and how different it would be to finally hear words that acknowledged our genius and that reminded us that we matter. 

After students read through the encouraging words others wrote, I inquired how these compliments made them feel. One struggling student said, “It makes me feel like I can do anything! Thank you!”

We also created notecards for our desks that say “I matter. I am enough.” to remind us daily that we matter and to remind others that they matter too. We also used the greeting Jimmy Casas had asked educators to recite at the WGEDD conference: “You are great. You are awesome. You are the best. You are the best of the best. You rock!”. We took turns saying this to each other and then recorded that on a notecard to serve as a reminder. As students were writing these words of encouragement, two or three mumbled “I am not any of these things. That’s not true.” Wow! What a statement – and validation of why we do this activity!

We are working diligently to continue to change the perceptions students entered our classroom with. Once perceptions are changed, so is students’ reality. My hope is each and every student knows they matter and that someone believes in them! 

We have begun to share the You Matter message with others this week, by showing an attitude of gratitude through writing thank you cards and giving You Matter cards; first to the front office and today the custodians and cafeteria staff. We will continue to encourage other campus staff in the coming weeks.