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How do you finish the year with your students? How do you finish a high school career with seniors?
Several years ago, I received the following story “Too Busy for a Friend.” It was sent via email. It is an impressive activity that many teachers may have read or even tried. With my senior psychology classes classes, I often use this activity to finish out the year. The activity can be completed in a variety of ways, however we spend class time preparing the comments.
Step #1: Read the story to the class or make photocopies for the students to read quietly on their own.
Too Busy for a Friend…
One day a teacher asked her students to list the names of the other students in the room on two sheets of paper, leaving a space between each name.
Then she told them to think of the nicest thing they could say about each of their classmates and write it down.
It took the remainder of the class period to finish their assignment, and as the students left the room, each one handed in the papers.
That Saturday, the teacher wrote down the name of each student on a separate sheet of paper, and listed what everyone else had said about that individual.
On Monday she gave each student his or her list. Before long, the entire class was smiling. “Really?” she heard whispered. “I never knew that I meant anything to anyone!” and, “I didn’t know others liked me so much.” were most of the comments.
No one ever mentioned those papers in class again. She never knew if they discussed them after class or with their parents, but it didn’t matter. The exercise had accomplished its purpose. The students were happy with themselves and one another. That group of students moved on.
Several years later, one of the students was killed in Viet Nam and his teacher attended the funeral of that special student. She had never seen a serviceman in a military coffin before. He looked so handsome, so mature.
The church was packed with his friends. One by one those who loved him took a last walk by the coffin. The teacher was the last one to bless the coffin.
As she stood there, one of the soldiers who acted as pallbearer came up to her. “Were you Mark’s math teacher?” he asked. She nodded: “yes.”
Then he said: “Mark talked about you a lot.”
After the funeral, most of Mark’s former classmates went together to a luncheon. Mark’s mother and father were there, obviously waiting to speak with his teacher.
“We want to show you something,” his father said, taking a wallet out of his pocket. “They found this on Mark when he was killed. We thought you might recognize it.”
Opening the billfold, he carefully removed two worn pieces of notebook paper that had obviously been taped, folded and refolded many times.
The teacher knew without looking that the papers were the ones on which she had listed all the good things each of Mark’s classmates had said about him.
“Thank you so much for doing that,” Mark’s mother said. “As you can see, Mark treasured it.”
All of Mark’s former classmates started to gather around. Charlie smiled rather sheepishly and said, “I still have my list. It’s in the top drawer of my desk at home.”
Chuck’s wife said, “Chuck asked me to put his in our wedding album.”
“I have mine too,” Marilyn said. “It’s in my diary.”
Then Vicki, another classmate, reached into her pocketbook, took out her wallet and showed her worn and frazzled list to the group. “I carry this with me at all times,” Vicki said and without batting an eyelash, she continued: “I think we all saved our lists.”
That’s when the teacher finally sat down and cried. She cried for Mark And for all his friends who would never see him again.
The following was included in the email. You may choose to leave this section out. I do stress the importance of letters as opposed to the difficult task for forwarding an email.
The density of people in society is so thick that we forget that life will end one day. And we don’t know when that one day will be.
So please, tell the people you love and care for, that they are special and important. Tell them, before it is too late.
And One Way To Accomplish This Is: Forward this message on. If you do not send it, you will have, once again passed up the wonderful opportunity to do something nice and beautiful.
If you’ve received this, it is because someone cares for you and it means there is probably at least someone for whom you care.
If you’re “too busy” to take those few minutes right now to forward this message on, would this be the VERY first time you didn’t do that little thing that would make a difference in your relationships?
The more people that you send this to, the better you’ll be at reaching out to those you care about.
Remember, you reap what you sow. What you put into the lives of others, comes back into your own.
May Your Day Be Blessed As Special As You Are
Step #2 Share outstanding comments from previous years. Below are some great examples (obviously some comments are too personal in nature for the reader to not know who the author is):
You are one of the most amazing people I have ever met. You are the most loving and understanding person I know. I am so glad that I met you 7 years ago. I’m so glad that we were able to be friends for so long. Remember the hearts on the candy wrapper… three? PS. Nice button… Love<3
You are such a caring person. You always listen, and laugh at my awful jokes. I like when people laugh at my bad jokes. I know we were never especially close, but being your friend, even just in school is one of the greatest gifts I have ever received. I promise… I’ll never almost push you into a wall or close your feet in the elevator again. Love<3
I love that you are so free-spirited. You always know how to make everyone laugh.
You have a way to always make people smile. You have a personality that seems to light up a room.
You are one of the most intelligent people it has ever been my honor to meet. You have taught me so much.
You are one of the funniest people I have ever met, I am so glad we got the chance to meet. You make me smile, even in precalc… and that says a lot.
You are one of the most caring and understanding people I have ever had the chance to meet. You are an amazing friend. You always have been, even when I wasn’t. I’m sorry we didn’t remain better friends through middle and high school.
You are one of the most exciting people I know. You seem to find the good in any situation.
You always seem so content with life. I admire that trait in you.
You are such an amazing person. You always have a way of making people smile.
You are such an amazing person, and you have such a unique style. Your personality is so refreshing.
You are a wonderful person. You are so understanding, and you never hold anything back. You are so comfortable with who you are, and that is an amazing quality.
You are by far one of the funniest people I know. Even when I am in the worst mood, you always seem to make me smile. I am truly honored to know you.
You are a wonderful, caring person. I’m so glad that I met you all those years ago. I’m sorry we didn’t remain friends throughout the years.
This year I think I have talked to you more than every other year I have known you combined. Working with you is great. I get to hear so many great stories. I wish we were better friends throughout the years, because you are such an amazing person with a beautiful heart.
Your creative spirit is so refreshing. I am so glad I met you all those years ago. You are a wonderful person.
You’re an amazing person and I am so glad that we’ve become friends this year. You are such a wonderful person. I hope you never change. <3
You are a wonderful person. Your personality simply lights up the room.
You are such a caring person. You always make me feel so comfortable with myself. I am so glad I met you way back in elementary school. I hope you know how amazing you truly are.
You are always so happy. You always find something to laugh about. You are a wonderful person.
Step #3 Create a worksheet with the names of each student on it with space for the comments. Students will have different degrees of relationships and friendships, but all should attempt to make a sincere, genuine, positive comment.
I will be sharing additional ideas to use with this activity to create a final document for each student. It is the 21st century and we can use technology so that a teacher does not have to spend a Saturday copying the comments.
It is a great way to end the year.