Words of Affirmation

Have you ever been having a bad day and someone left you a little note that brought a smile to your face instantly? I am a HUGE note writer. I also have a GREAT appreciation for a handwritten note given to me. I was recently listening to a podcast where the host was talking about love languages. There are 5 love languages. They are:

  • Gifts
  • Quality Time
  • Words of Affirmation
  • Acts of Service
  • Physical Touch

While some of these are not appropriate as a love language from teacher to student, words of affirmation is a love language that is cheap, easy, and a way to show evidence of PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports).

A few years back my job-share partner, Jessica Hanchak, and I had a rough group of students who were exhibiting poor behaviors. We had to do something! So we started writing them quick, little, simple notes. (I also do this in my own children’s lunches- they LOVE it!)

We use our di-cut machine in the teacher workroom and cut out one shape for each child that month. August and September we use apples. October we use pumpkins. November we use fall colored leaves. December we use Christmas trees, stockings, and sometimes other shapes for those who don’t celebrate Christmas. In January we use snowmen. February, you guessed it, hearts. The month of March we use shamrocks. April showers bring May flowers, so in April we use umbrellas and in May we use flowers.

We keep track of who gets a note on a spreadsheet with the date. We really try to space out the notes so at the end of one month we aren’t giving a student a note and then they get another at the start of the next. That means they could possibly go almost two months between positive notes. Now, please know we don’t just NOT give a kid a note because they just received one. Some kids may get more than one note a month, but we make sure each kid gets a note each month. No if, ands, or buts about it.

What about those kids that don’t do too many positive things to write home about? As soon as you see them do something positive, WRITE THEM A NOTE! Writing an inspirational quote would work as well. Maybe a kid just needs a little pick me up. Your small gesture could mean the world to a child.

I had a student years ago, he’s now a freshman. When he was going into 6th grade (so two years after I had him as a 4th grader) his mom was helping him clean out his room to rearrange it. She found the 9 notes we had written him from 4th grade. He kept them for over two years at that point in the top drawer of his dresser. Throughout the cleaning process he kept them as well. Like I said, he’s a freshman now and when I ran into his mother this summer she informed me that he still has them.

Jess and I try to use our school district’s anchor words RESPONSIBLE, RESPECTFUL, and SAFE in our notes. We tie an action back to those words so that we are referencing behaviors that we want to see repeated. (Hello, PBIS!)

I took this a step further two school years ago and my New Year’s Resolution was to write one positive note to each staff member in my building by the end of that school year. I cannot tell you the number of people who came to me the day I left them a note or the next day and they told me how much they needed the positivity that particular day. It was very touching to some of my colleagues that I then saw they started to write notes to one another. We now have a box in our teacher lounge that is for Staff Shoutouts that get read at staff meetings. They really do make us all smile. I’m not trying to toot my own horn by any stretch of the imagination… I LOVE words of affirmation. I keep cards that students, parents, friends, family have given me and I get them out on bad days to pull me out of my funk. It’s my love language. I write cards ALL. THE. TIME.

Sometimes a person just needs to hear that they’re doing a good job. Sometimes people just need a little note to read that says someone noticed what they did. That someone appreciates them. That someone looks up to them. Even those teacher colleagues of yours whom you think have it all together. Who make this job look easy. Let me tell you, they need the words of affirmation just as much as the first year teacher who may barely be hanging on. The teacher who may be “rockin’ in their school socks” needs to hear that s/he is doing a great job as well.

Jessica is so great at leaving me notes in the afternoon when she leaves so I have a small little note of encouragement when I get to my desk each morning. I can’t tell you what that means to me on those mornings that are just kind of “blah”. It gives me a pep in my step. It affirms that at least she believes in me and don’t want to let her down.

Go, right now… write a positive note to someone. A student. A colleague. Your personal child. Your partner or spouse.

If no one writes you a note, here’s mine to you….


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