My last day as a teacher at Skybridge: a reflection

Today was my last day as a teacher at Skybridge.


There are too many words to fit the last three years into one basket of feelings. Instead, I will share this:
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A few semesters ago, my students were having a real problem with negative self-talk and disclaiming their writing. “I was really tired when I wrote this/this isn’t very good/I don’t really know what I’m doing,” etc.
To combat this, I introduced the self-deprecation jar.
The rule of the jar is this: if you say something bad about yourself, you must write down three awesome things about yourself and put them in the jar. (The jar is covered with pictures of cows saying positive things that are also cow puns.)
For some people, this was harder than it was for others.
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Others were just silly.
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And others embraced it wholeheartedly.
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(Even I got caught once or twice.)
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Universally, it changed the language people used about themselves and their writing, both in the classroom and out. We adopted a culture of gleefully aggressive self-positivity. Multiple times I found myself, in graduate classes or peer groups, two hairs away from shouting “JAR!” when someone said something self-effacing.
I asked the students what they wanted to do with the jar at the end of the semester. They had lots of ideas:
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…with an overwhelmingly predominant theme:
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But it made me sad to burn all of the genuinely great (and silly, and snarky) things they’d written about themselves. So as a concession, I bought a bunch of tiny jars. I wrote something awesome about each student in on a tiny slip of paper in tiny letters, and placed each one in a jar.
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Then strung them on copper wire and embroidery thread (to be necklaces or keychains or whatnot):
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 I know you can’t hold on forever. I know that teachers pass in and out of students’ lives. But for a little bit longer, at least, the kids will carry with them the fondness and wishes of someone who was lucky to be allowed into their lives, and was changed for the best because of it.
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