Teaching warms the heart

At the beginning of the school year,

I was busy reminiscing about my old students,

missing their jokes, their love for reading, and even sometimes, their defiance.

My class this year is so different.  Much different.

Going from almost sixth graders to used to be third graders

has definitely been a strange adjustment.

My students felt so little, like babies even,

and it was hard to bond with them and see them as my students.

I’m not sure if has a little bit to do with the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary

but this week I’ve definitely felt a little closer to my students this week.

Whatever the reason, today I started to find myself falling in love

with my little rascals (as I loving refer to them as.) even more than I ever have.

Every Wednesday we have something called Community Lunchbox.

It’s a reward students can earn when they play Homeworkopoly,

an amazing game that students get to play if they’ve completed their homework all week.

Students are allowed to bring a “Plus 1”

and they get to come eat lunch with the teachers.

The kids LOVE it!

Most Wednesdays, the students all sit together,

not really paying any attention to their teachers at all.

But today, five girls raced to my back table,

“We want to sit with you, Ms. Friedrich!”

Surprised and half bummed I’d miss out on the “teacher talk” my co-teachers would be

sharing as I sat with these girls, I took a seat and began to eat my lunch with them.

I figured they’d talk amongst themselves and I’d just listen,

but instead we shared laughs, gabbed about our favorite foods,

and one even confided a story about why she got grounded for a whole month.

My favorite was when one girl tried lobbying

 for another girl in the class to be student of the week.

“She’s been raising her hand a lot in class and has been working really hard.

I really think you need to pick her,” she said, dead serious.

The two aren’t close friends, so I knew she was genuine.

It seriously was such a pleasant lunch,

my heart was a little bummed when it was time for it to end.


Shopping Carts

So we’re halfway through December,

and I’m doing my best to complete my list of Random Acts of Kindness.

#23 – Actually walk my shopping cart back to the store

instead of leaving it in the parking lot for one of the clerks to come collect.

My initial idea was to complete each item on the list once

and complete 30 total acts of kindness.

However, my plans have changed just a little.

Seeing as it’s the 19th and I’ve only completed 7 items on my list,

I’ve realized that that’s okay because

I’ve found myself being more aware of this idea

that December is my month of kindness

and it’s motivated me to do some of these kind things on a regular basis

rather than just once.

 For example, take shopping carts –

The first time, it was easy.  I felt good.  I was lightening the load for someone else.

But each time after, when I visited the grocery store

I felt guilty if I didn’t walk my cart back to the store.

It’s like I’m breaking the rules if I get lazy

and don’t feel like walking it all the way back

when really, it’s no big deal.

I know that this is no world peace spreading act,

but I’d like to think it’s just one way to remind me

to be a little more thoughtful of others this month

and to continue on with my Acts of Kindness list.

i am a fan of kind people

I have a thing for faces and names.

There were 502 students in my freshman class in high school,

and I can honestly say, that even though I may have never spoke

to all 502, I could probably still match the names to the faces.

But there were a lot I knew because we shared a class together,

played on the same soccer team or had mutual friends.

For a very long time,

one of my biggest pet peeves was seeing kids I knew from school

out and about – at the mall, at a restaurant, you name it –

kids I had classes with or were friends of friends with,

and they’d see me, and I’d see them,

but they wouldn’t even say hello or acknowledge they knew me with a smile.

I can remember countless times making efforts to say hello

and being shafted with nothing more than an iced stare.

It was SO annoying!

I couldn’t understand how we could sit a few desks away from one another in class,

but in public, I was a nobody.

Then college came,

and for the first time in my life, I felt like I had actually met kind people.

They’d wave to me on campus, or just offer a smile as we passed in the quad.

We could have only shared one class together, ever.

Yet the acknowledgement was still there.

Hmmm. What was wrong with this picture?

You mean to tell me kindness isn’t actually a crime?

It can be greeted with warmth instead of dirty looks?

Shocking!  This was news to me.

Fast forward.

My five and ten year reunions have come and gone.

The eras of MySpace, Facebook, then Twitter.

And little by little, I’ve found myself being a little less kind

in the fact that nowadays when I see people from high school

I pretend I have no knowledge that I ever knew them.

I don’t smile.  I don’t say hello.

The best is when they try to add me on Facebook.

Ha! You want to “reconnect” with someone you never really knew?

Seems like a very strange concept to me.

No thanks.

It’s kind of sad to admit that somehow I’ve picked up their unkind habit,

when instead I should be killing them with kindness instead.

What inspired all this was a little kindness offered to me today.

I was grabbing lunch earlier today in the midst of Christmas shopping.

I was hungry, and zoning out about what I had left to buy

when the girl in front of me says,

“What’s your name?  I swear we went to high school together.”

I honestly have to say I had NO clue who she was.

I told her, and she confirmed she did remember me.

“We had mutual friends: ____ and _____.

I think we ate lunch in a big group together a few times.”

I certainly hope my jaw didn’t drop in front of her,

because it felt like it did.

I felt embarrassed.  I vaguely remember her.

But the fact that she made a point to say hello was pretty darn cool in my book.

I am a fan of kind people.

Perhaps I’ll try to be a little kinder myself.

Reading is cool! I swear!


Inspiring kids to love reading is hard.

I have some serious reluctant readers in my class,

and many others that enjoy reading,

but are clueless on how to pick out a book that’s just right for them.

I sympathize with all of the above,

because I was not a child who enjoyed reading

as much as I now enjoy reading as an adult.

I don’t want my students to become the type of kid I was.

I want them to find the books that make them excited

to find another, and another, and another.

Because these days, when I find a good book for myself,

I am hungry for more and I get sad that the latest book is over.

A teacher friend of mine, who knows nothing of my picky reading taste,

heard I was looking for a new book to read

and placed a book called The Language of Flowers in my box.

“I think you’d like this.” the note she slipped inside had said.

And boy was she right!

I finished that thing in one week!

I gave up my Saturday just to sit on the couch and finish every page!

I want to be that kind of “Book Fairy” for my kids.

I want to know what kinds of books make them tick,

make them sad because they don’t want them to be over.

I want to be the one that helps them discover their childhood favorite

that they reflect on sentimentally as an adult.

I wasn’t the child with a flashlight in my bed under the covers, reading.

I was the girl with 20 books in my library bag,

who only actually found time to read one or two in the stack.

Choosing books was more exciting to me than actually reading them.

I am now playing catch up, reading young adult books as a matter of research

just so I can recommend books to my students

and be in the know of the juvenile literary world.

I subscribe to the Nerdy Book Club so I can be up with the times

on newly published books for children.


what inspired this long rant about how reading really is cool,

is the fact that I am sitting here,

responding to “Reading Response Journal” letters from my students

and they are boring!!!

The sole point of the reading response is for my students and I

to have a way to talk about the books their reading.

They write me a letter about what they’re reading,

and I respond with my own thoughts about their book and ideas.

But these letters are boring!

I feel like I have a bunch of uninspired readers,

writing me boring letters that only follow a “how to checklist,”

and provide no genuine tone or sincerity.

Inspiring kids to love reading is hard

but to inspire them to love talking about what they’re reading is even harder.

Perhaps I need to rethink this whole Reading Response Journal thing.

But in the meantime,

I’ll continue to just inspire my kids to READ!

Applaud their choices, suggest new titles,

and encourage them to spend time in the library to find their next book.

Reading – It’s cool!  I swear!


Acts of Kindness

Well, December is here,

and with that, I’ve begun my month of Kindness project

as a part of my 30 before 30 bucket list.

I finally finished making my list of the 30 things I will do this month

in order to spread a little extra kindness to strangers

and the ones I love most.

I have to say, this took some research.

I wanted to keep this project low cost,

and I wanted each item to be easily attainable.

Now, I’d love to shell out a ton of money to brighten a stranger’s day

but that would leave me broke and not feeling so kind and cheery.

So though some of these tasks seem minor,

to me, they are enough to push me out of my daily routine

and do something nice and/or thoughtful for someone else.

Day 1: Send a note in the mail to a friend, just because.

Easy enough, right?  Shockingly, the hardest part was deciding who to send it to.

I have so many great friends that it was hard to choose just one person.

I have to admit, it felt a little funny writing a note to a friend

when it wasn’t her birthday, and she wasn’t getting married

or having a child.

But honestly, who doesn’t enjoy getting mail?

Like, actual mail, not bills, credit card offers or a catalog?

Here’s hoping this brightens my friend’s day.

Day 2: Surprise grandma with a visit, just to say hello.

My abuela has been on vacation in Miami since the beginning of November,

and it’s been strange not having her around.

She got back last night, and I knew a call to welcome her home

would have been sufficient.

But I knew an unexpected visit would have been that much better.

So this morning, I drove to her house and didn’t call her until I was around the corner.

Greeted by tons of hugs and kisses and squeals of delight,

I knew this was much better.

I showed her the skirt I sewed all by myself weeks earlier

for her to admire and praise with her ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs.’

She shared all the adventures of her travels

and I ‘oohed’ and ‘aahhed’ in jealousy.

Before we knew it, an hour had passed.

A phone call probably would have been quicker,

and probably, still, would have made her day.

But this meant more.

I could have gone to the hot yoga class I wanted to attend,

and called her on the way,

but this was more important.

Welcome home, Abuela!  You were missed!