Our school returned to full in-person learning on April 26th, the day after our April break. Our principal asked us to think about what our "first day" back would look like and what we could do to build a new community of learners in our classrooms.
I planned some engaging activities to bring our two cohorts together, but I knew I wanted to do something different to commemorate our year and learning and growing together for the first time - if even for a short while.
My niece is a student at Mass College of Art. I have watched her learn and grow into an amazing artist. In March, she was working on a "graffiti" project for school. She shared her project and idea with me, and right then, I knew I had found a way for us to leave our mark on this year.
Simple, meaningful, and fun. As each student entered our classroom, I had them sanitize, press their finger on the ink pad, and leave their mark on a tree. 98% of the students thought it was cool and thoughtfully found their place on the branches. One reluctant student came back out when he saw the enthusiasm of the other students.
Now, they want to sign the back of the board. Eventually, we will find its more permanent home.
For now, it greets me at the door. Its green thumbprint leaves are a symbol of the seventy-five students that come in and out of that classroom door and have left a mark on this tree and my heart this year.
This pandemic year has been memorialized on that tree, and each print is a reminder of the strength and community of readers and writers that learned and grew together during an unprecedented year.
NOTE: I will upload a photo of our class tree tomorrow. I forgot to take a picture.