Yesterday was the calendar holiday Valentine’s Day. Some of my students celebrated this on Thursday since the students were out of school on that Friday. I watched in the hallway as students passed out gifts to their friends, boyfriends, and girlfriends with excitement. I also noticed that some of my students were empty handed and some were even sad. Fortunately, I had a lesson plan for the day that wasn’t typical for Valentine’s Day that also tied into black history month. Before I could introduce the lesson to my 3rd period 8th grade students, I felt a heavy wave of sadness flood the room. Before we meditated I asked, “How are we feeling today” as I could feel tension coming from the right side of the room. KeKe spoke up, “I’m not having a good day! I didn’t get anything for Valentine’s Day. Nobody bought me nothing!” I empathized with her remembering being in 8th grade myself and the expectations that my friends and I had for the holiday. I took a pause and told her, “You’re beautiful, smart, athletic, and talented. You don’t need a gift to define who you are and you certainly don’t need validation from anyone else. Real love starts with you loving yourself first.” I soon realized that I was talking to the whole class as my words began to fade. I spoke to everyone letting them know that this day on a calendar doesn’t define their worth. I reminded them that “I see kings and queens in this room” and that they were all worthy, special, and loved. The room felt much lighter as we meditated and said our positive affirmations.
I turned to the smart board and turned on the 6 minute short film on YouTube, Hair Love. I then asked everyone to write down 10 things that they loved about themselves which led into the next activity of them painting how they felt about themselves. I talked about the energies associated with the color red of courage, strength, passion, anger, and more intense emotions. I explained how tints are created by adding white to a color. When white is added to red different tints of pink are made with energies of love, tenderness, compassion, and lighter emotions. While everyone was writing their list of 10 things, I went over to KeKe. I asked her to write a love letter to herself. I encouraged this having written several to myself throughout my journey. I scaled the room checking everyone’s list and smiling at the fact that they came up with their 10 things and felt good about themselves. When it was time to paint, I went over to KeKe and responded to her asking me to read her letter. My eyes filled with tears as I read. She told me that she felt better.
She painted this. I took note of the heart break on the left and I asked, “what did you feel painting the right side?” She responded with, “Freedom.” My heart filled with gratitude because the children are healing and so am I.
Fictional names were used to protect the identities of my students.