On their daily math tests, my students write me notes. Look I am doing better I think this one is easy. It is way easier! They draw me googly eyed smily faces. Some days, if they do poorly, there are cramped and dejected sad faces next to their scores.
At first, my students did not write notes. Notes started appearing a month or two into the term: small at first, but growing increasingly bold, increasingly long as fall slipped into winter.
Not so well today but it is okay!! It is still really easy and I’m glad you gave us [level] J!!
I improved a lot!! See I am doing better on this than I! I feel so much better!
Look!! Better than yesterday and I can’t wait!! Didn’t you say I am showing tenacity? Shouldn’t I get a tenacity star?
Look I am doing great! I’m very happy oh and happy holiday!
Sharing thoughts verbally does not suffice for my students. And they are not shy about sharing. Snack is often a chorus of “Ms. Lander,” “Ms. Lander,” “Ms. Lander.” They ask about the plan for the day. They ask if they can get water (“No, you know my rules: When we get upstairs.”) They call me over with fluttering hands to show me a science grade, or an English test. Sometimes they call me over with great urgency and when I weave my way between the tables, they respond with a big “Hi! That’s all I wanted to say.” Nor are they shy about sharing their thoughts in the classroom.
But, despite all these opportunities to talk, I continue to receive daily notes on my math tests. They have become conversations of a sort. Next to a 9/25: Boo! Me! Sorry I was tired, I walked to a field trip. FYI – far away.
The next day, after scoring 100%: I’ve been practicing!!! Other one-hundred percents elicit: Finally. Yes. Ow Yea. I go girl. And Level up. Yeah lets go. Yeah ow yea I beasting cuz I’m a boss.
One girl in particular draws the most unusual smilely faces on her math tests. One has raised eyebrows and a wiggling handle bar mustache. There are round cheek-ed Santas spouting “Merry Christmas” and “Ho ho ho.” Many have freckled cheeks. Some come adorned with pompomed hats and others with train-track smiles and speech bubbles: “Yaaa.” There has been one shrouded in a scribble beard and another wearing a top hat.
On off-days the writing is jagged, defiant: Horrible. I don’t care. Whatever. On good days there is a profusion of exclamation points. Look I am doing sooo much better. This is the highest I have gotten!! SO HAPPY!!!
I scrawl notes back – like a parent on the sidelines shouting encouragement. “Way to go,” “Keep it up!” “I’m so impressed.” Until recently I assumed few of my comments were actually read. Then last week I neglected to respond to one particularly avid note writer. “Ms. Lander! You didn’t respond!” the girl called out – her voice shocked and slightly hurt. That night I corrected the error – writing responses to both that day’s test and the one from the day before. The following afternoon I glanced in the girl’s direction. She was rifling through her folder – pulling down a page, pausing, pulling down another page. Finally she looked up, and rewarded me with an approving nod.