In the US school starts a fair bit earlier than it does here. But like most middle school teachers, Karen Loewe, always uses getting-to-know you activities to break the ice with her new students. This year, she included a new activity. One that she picked up on social media under #TeacherProblems. She took the idea called “The Baggage Activity,” tweaked it and put it to use. Then she shared her results about it, and her Facebook post detailing it quickly went viral.
So what is “The Baggage Activity”? Well, Loewe wrote in the post – “I asked the kids what it meant to have baggage, and they mostly said it was hurtful stuff you carry around on your shoulders. I asked them to write down on a piece of paper what was bothering them, what was heavy on their heart, what was hurting them, etc. No names were to be on a paper. They wadded the paper up, and threw it across the room.” Not a complex action in itself but it did require some groundwork to be laid first. She had to establishing that the classroom would be a respectful place where ideas were valued, students would speak individually, and kindness would be key.
Then came the results, which included for more issues than you might think a grade 7, 8, or 9 class would have. Everything from divorce, to drugs, to suicide made its way onto those bits of paper. Concerns one might think only and adult would have were weighing on the minds of her kids. But the sharing of this “baggage” ended up with a surprising result. “They don’t interrupt or talk down to each other,” she said. “They’re not rude. It’s completely, completely changed how they treat each other…I wish I would have done this years ago. It’s been so good.”
And that message has spread, the post on Facebook has been shared over half a million times, and people from all over the world – from Pakistan, Australia, and China have reached out to find out how she was able to be so successful with the activity. She adds that if she had known it would go viral she would have included more information about that groundwork she laid. So here it is: Loewe’s kids have written classroom contracts, had discussions about how what happened in the room stayed in the room, and done other trust-building exercises. Since then, she’s had the students engage in several follow-up activities, like conversation starters, worksheets where they have another opportunity to share their “baggage,” and giving feedback.
It takes more than a single day, more than a single activity, to change a whole roomful of people’s behaviour. But powerful lessons can be taught in such ways. That’s what Loewe and her class discovered.
While you are reading your Good News Story of the Day, here, keep this bit from Karen Loewe with you; “This bag hangs by my door to remind them that we all have baggage. We will leave it at the door. As they left I told them, they are not alone, they are loved, and we have each other’s back.”
Story and Image from TODAY.