Teaching a group of Middle School kids who have been kicked out of their regular classrooms is always a delight. I had the chance to teach them one year, and was told that if I could keep the fighting down to five a day I’d be successful.
I really loved these kids. They came from homes where joy was not a key ingredient. Many lived in hotels with parents who dealt crack. Others lived in projects where fear was their constant companion. One of my students came to school with stitches because his dad had thrown a knife at him.
One of my first strategies was to introduce journaling. Every day after lunch, rather than beating each other up, I had them write in their journals for ten minutes. They could write anything they wanted, and I wouldn’t read it unless they asked. A few said they were going to write a story about hitting me. I said I didn’t care as long as they wrote it and didn’t do it.
The time for journaling soon expanded from ten minutes to thirty, because the kids didn’t want to stop writing. I watched their faces as they wrote, and it’s as if every word lifted another weight off their shoulders.
In his book “59 seconds: Change Your Life In Under A Minute,” Richard Wiseman writes:
Writing encourages the creation of a story line and structure that help people make sense of what has happened and work toward a solution.
In one experiment researchers found that people who spent time writing about the following topics over a five week period felt significantly happier at the end of the experiment:
Monday: Write down three things for which you are grateful. These can include having a job you love, a garden, or a favorite television show.
Tuesday: Write about a terrific time in your life. Describe how it made you feel.
Wednesday: Write about your ideal life in the future. Describe the person you have become if all your dreams come true.
Thursday: Write a quick note to a person who is important to you. Describe how much you care for them.
Friday: Think back over the past week and write down three things that went really well for you.
I’m going to try this starting Monday. I’ll let you know how it goes, and would love for you to join me! If you want to read more about my experience with the Middle School kids, check out Chapter 3 of my book:
If you want the Richard Wiseman book, here you go: