Back to school means lots of first-day exercises. However, incredible Oaklahoma middle school teacher’s “baggage” activity stands above the rest. With her beautiful idea, she spread kindness and reminded her students that everyone has something personal to deal with. Here’s the amazing story that’s sure to put a smile on your face…
Ms. Loewe’s Baggage Activity
It doesn’t matter how old you are, or where you come from: we all carry baggage. In fact, it’s one of the only things that binds all humans together. While most of us have endured very different experiences, thoughts, and feelings, we all carry the weight of those events. However, many of us are too quick to dismiss others’ baggage. Unfortunately, that can be a challenging lesson to teach!
So, one clever teacher from Oklahoma, Karen Loewe, after 22 years of teaching, finally came up with a way to teach children about others’ baggage. She also wanted a way to teach her students about kindness, and ways it impacts us and others. Over her career as a seventh and eighth-grade teacher at Collinsville Middle School, Loewe constantly tried to find ways to get her students to become kinder to one another, stay involved, and look out for fellow students. That’s when she came up with the “baggage activity!” Now, she says it was one of the most “impactful” days of her life…
“They Are Not Alone, They Are Loved”
Loewe felt so proud of her idea that she needed to share it with others. After the first day of school, she uploaded the results to Facebook. During the “baggage activity,” Loewe asked her students to anonymously describe their baggage on paper. The teacher wrote in her Facebook post, “I asked them to write down on a piece of paper what was bothering them, what was heavy on their heart, what was hurting them, etc. No names were to be on a paper. They wadded the paper up, and threw it across the room. They picked up a piece of paper and took turns reading out loud what their classmate wrote. After a student read a paper, I asked who wrote that, and if they cared to share.”
After the reveal, surprisingly, many did want to claim their baggage. Meanwhile, throughout the process, the students reading others’ notes often cried alongside the whole class. They wrote about family issues, troubled upbringing, and other issues that weight down their hearts. Then Loewe collected the “baggage” notes, put them in a plastic bag and hung it on the wall, as a reminder that “we all have baggage. We will leave it at the door. As they left I told them, they are not alone, they are loved, and we have each other’s back.”
An Overwhelming Response
Within days, users shared Loewe’s post over 500,000 times and added thousands upon thousands of positive comments. Parents, former students, and strangers alike encouraged her, praised her, and thanked her for thinking outside of the box. Furthermore, she didn’t try and band-aid over the baggage!
In an interview with Good Morning America, Loewe said, “I’m 46 and I haven’t been through what these kids have been through. When I was a kid I was concerned about sports and going out with friends. The stuff they are going through broke my heart.” During the interview, Loewe also clarified how she treated the notes: she passed anything that raised any red flag, whatsoever, on to relevant school professionals and channels. The teacher also promised to continue to do so for future iterations of the activity.
Loewe noticed the activity made a change within the students and towards one another – “they’ve been kinder to each other,” she shared. That’s all we could hope for!