Today I got mad. I got really frustrated.
Stop complaining, I yelled at them in my head. Do something good instead. But I didn't yell. That wouldn't have worked. That would have done the opposite of what I wanted. So I decided to try something new. Something my language arts professor had taught me when I was in school.
"Okay, everyone. You all have a piece of paper I just gave you. On this paper, you are to write down everything you are frustrated about, everything you want to complain about, everything you hate, or are mad at."
Some of them thought I was crazy. Some of them have had absolutely nothing to complain about since the beginning of the year. I made them do it anyway.
"Spelling doesn't matter," I told them. "No one is going to look at these but you. Keep writing."
When I decided that time was up, I had them stop. One of them wanted to share. I told them no.
"Okay, now what you are going to do, is take your paper and crumple it up. And this is the only time you can do this, but you need to throw it at the garbage." I crumpled up my own to demonstrate and threw it at the garbage. It landed at my feet because I'm an amazing thrower in my classroom.
Some of them crumpled it up, some of them tore it up. All but one threw it away. I hope it's valuable for her.
Then I gave them a new piece of paper.
"On this paper, you are going to write everything you like right now, things that make you happy, things you love, things you like. If you can't think of anything, just write the same thing over and over again."
They began again. A few asked if they were going to throw this away too.
"Why would you want to throw your good things away?" I asked them.
A few asked if they could read their's aloud.
I said no. Mostly because Blobfish Lover would have read the name of the boy she kissed a few months ago and isn't allowed to play with anymore. And she'd have read it upwards of 20 times because she wrote it over and over and over and over again.
Then we discussed how they felt when they wrote the first things. The negative things. They felt angry, mostly. And how did they feel when they threw it away? Relieved was the consensus.
How did they feel when they wrote the positive? Good. How easy was it? Harder than the negative, because they practice the negative more often.
But now we're going to practice the positive. It felt happier. It felt good. So that's what we're going to do. All of my students and myself included.