DEAR ABBY: This letter is long, but I hope you'll find it worth sharing with teachers. One of the challenges for anyone who works with young people is to help each child have a better self-worth. Naomi Haines Griffin, a well-known speaker with a background in education and social work, has many suggestions for accomplishing this. We incorporated one of them into our kindergarten classes.
Each week, a child was named "Star of the Week." A spiral notebook was sent home with the student, and the child's family was asked to write special memories or unique descriptions pertaining to the student. Also that week, every child in the class was asked to say something good about the "Star of the Week." The comments of the students and family were then incorporated into a computer poster and were read aloud to the "star" in front of the entire class.
All the students lit up with pride as their comments were read. The "Star" poster became almost sacred to the students, and the activity fostered respect and love for one another.
During that week, someone from the child's family visited our classes and shared a hobby or interest with our students. Paramedics and firemen brought ambulances and fire trucks and talked to the students about safety; mothers who spoke no English demonstrated making tortillas; a director from the animal shelter talked about the importance of caring for family pets and what to do if approached by a strange animal; a father with limited English showed the children how to make a homemade pinata and explained how birthdays are celebrated in Mexico. People from all walks of life -– high income to poverty level -– shared their lives with our classes. The wealth of shared information was unlimited.
Tragedy struck our kindergarten this year when one of our students, Rudy Ortega, died after a long battle with leukemia. When we went to the funeral home to view Rudy's body, we saw Rudy's "Star of the Week" poster displayed by the casket.
Thank you, Naomi Griffin, for showing us the way to help all kids. -– KAREN COOK AND SHELLANE KING, KINDERGARTEN TEACHERS IN MIDLAND, TEXAS
DEAR KAREN AND SHELLANE: I congratulate you. The lessons your students have absorbed in your classroom are something they will take with them for the rest of their lives. Your project also illustrates the many benefits parents can provide by becoming involved in their children's education.