In Oklahoma, the teacher of middle school students is reinventing the traditional ways of approaching education to teach her students a significant lesson.
Karen Loewe, asked her students to write down the struggles and challenges that they are currently facing. Once they’re done with the seat-work, they have to put it inside a bag which Karen Lowe placed by the door.
The reason why she wanted her students to leave what they wrote by the door is to establish the idea of leaving the negativity behind, and not dwelling on what brings them down.
“The leave-it-at-the-door means like: ‘Don’t let that past define you. It happened. It made you who you are, but don’t dwell on it forever and ever. You’ve got to move past it,” Loewe said.
Karen also read some of the anonymous notes so that all of her students have an awareness of what their classmates are going through. Most of their concerns involved heavy experiences and things such as drugs, abuse, family related problems, suicide, divorce, and many more.
Being the teacher, the usual expectation from you is that you enter the classroom, begin with the usual greeting, and carry on with the lesson for the day. But there’s also an underlying responsibility that goes beyond the technicalities of academics. Karen Loewe knew that she had to respond to the needs of her students, and she executed it in a very creative manner.
In the film Freedom Writers, a similar situation also called for releasing baggage in the walls of the classroom. The teacher, Erin Gruwell, was faced by a group of students who came from different backgrounds, all going through heavy challenges that mostly involved gangs, rape, and the divide between class, race, and color. Her students didn’t pay much attention to her lessons mostly because of their internal struggle, making academics a non-priority. She found a way to address this by providing the students with notebooks.
She gave them the liberty to write anything that was in their minds, and it was up to them if they wanted to let her read them. Much to her surprise, a lot of the students opened up to her through their individual notebooks, and because of this, she understood what her students were facing. This also led to better class discussions, and a more productive environment.
Putting Erin’s method side by side with that of Karen’s, they both showed initiative to understand what their students had to put up with. They both made sure that the four walls of the classroom is also a safe space for them to open up. This is important because some students even consider the school as a better place to be in, than in their own homes.
As Karen Loewe puts it, what’s most important is that her kids learned not to judge others because you never know what someone else is going through. She also plans to put the bag hanging by the door for the rest of the school year to serve as a reminder to not dwell on the negative, and to leave them behind as they leave the classroom.
To learn more about this inspiring story, watch the video below: