One cold, dark, wintry afternoon in my first-grade classroom, I found a piece of paper on the floor that was covered in pink and purple hearts and said in wonky, early, first-grader lettering, I love Mrs. Moran. It felt like the sun poured through the window and warmed my heart, bringing tears to my eyes. There is nothing that compares to the love of a student. It’s its own category of emotion. And sometimes, it’s the thing that keeps us going when the going gets tough.
The going is tough now. Am I right?
I mean it when I say, now is the time to start a warm fuzzy file (if you haven’t already!). Here’s how to do it:
Start with a binder
Choose a binder you love. There are so many pretty ones out there right now. You can buy one that’s ready to go, or buy one to decorate. There are also binders with clear plastic sleeves so you can print a cover. You might want to find paper-covered binders you can paste a collage to.
Add monthly dividers
Though this is just for you, I think it is fun to see that in September, you got 6,452 love notes or cute drawings, but in March, you only found 2. Don’t worry, usually that amps back up by the end of the year when kids realize the year is almost over.
Tell kids you’ve got a new place to keep treasures
Letting kids know their time, writing, and drawing matters can be powerful for them. It also gives them a purpose for creating and provides them the authentic practice they need. You’re offering students the rationale for them, while you get the joy that more warm fuzzies are coming. Fostering the writing of letters lends a literary nod to famous pen pals like Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre.
Photocopy (or take a picture and print) special papers or drawings
You get to choose what makes you happy. If you feel warm and fuzzy when you read a piece a student wrote about her grandmother or how another student is dealing during this pandemic, keep it. If someone gives you your favorite candy bar and it brought you pleasure, eat it and save the wrapper. Make a note about who gave it to you and why—date it.
Label your treasures so you don’t forget!
Don’t let yourself forget where you found these notes or who gave them to you. You can either use the white space around the paper or add blank labels next to each piece. Write down the date, the first name of the student, and any special facts about each treasure. If it’s personal, keep it in a personal section or ask the child for permission.
Share them with your students now and in the years to come
I’ve saved all of my warm fuzzy binders and often share them with students early in the year as a way to show how much my students mean to me. I treasure them just like my mother treasures the high heel shoe I made out of clay in third grade. Seeing that kind of care kept safe in a binder changes the way students see their teacher, and you might just be one of the only adults who’s ever shown this kind of interest.
Plain and simple: we need to do anything it takes to have joy in our lives right now. Start your binder now and save the joy for times you need it. You’ll never regret it.
What does your warm fuzzy file look like? Come and share in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.