Clark explains she has been doing this for 20 years for Valentine’s Day. Each child writes a personal card to every other child in the classroom of 25 students. The card includes a compliment. “We are a response classroom school, and we use the CARES model which emphasizes character development, self regulation and positive characteristics.”
The cards are made by Clark’s mom in Hawaii and sent to the classroom to be filled with compliments. Clark says providing these cards makes her mom feel close to her. “My mom grew up in Appalachia and didn’t have a lot so she values why we write compliments to each other.”
Noah Olson is working on Rosa’s card. “I think you are quiet in class. That is good.” He says he only has nine more cards to go.
Musa Ali says he starts with his friends because it is easier to come up with a compliment. He is working on number #17. Narimane. “She is funny. She makes me laugh all the time. When she laughs, I start to laugh. I don’t know why.”
Dillon Galves seals his envelope and puts it on his stack of completed valentines. He starts working on Jennifer who he declares “on the playground and on the slide she is very fun.” He says it was hard to think of all those compliments because he didn’t want to give everyone the same thing.
Vivian Ambrose circles the room with a stack of completed valentines. She slips the valentines into each student’s large envelope at the end of their table. She says she has already completed her valentines. Vivian reflects that it was harder to find compliments “for people who aren’t very nice to me. I think of what they like to do. But this was a good idea.”
James Uchno grabs his pencil and starts to write. He is working on Liam. “He is very nice; he is a good kid in class. And he likes soccer.” James says he would play football if he had the choice. He says he has no idea what the other kids might write about him.
Briebella Mencho Ortega looks forward to opening the valentines. She sorts through her stack of cards with pictures of multi-colored horses, reptiles and hearts and holds up her favorite — a picture of a dove. She said writing some of the cards was hard. Briebella is ready to write a compliment for Jennifer. “She can work with anyone.”
Jennifer Raymundo, who is partially deaf, sits at a table with her interpreter Kaeleigh Green. Jennifer is also assisted by Frecia Love, a teacher’s assistant, who is assigned to her. Fleet Elementary has a program at the school for the 11 students who are deaf and hard of hearing. Narimane Melichk sits at the table with Jennifer, also working on her valentine cards. Narimane is from Algeria and speaks Arabic and is also helped by the teacher’s assistant as needed.
Clark calls out, “Five minute warning.” She explains this is a multi-day project where they work a little each day. Clark calls the students to bring the completed valentines her and to sit in a circle on the floor. “How did it go today? Let’s talk about how it feels to write your valentines.”
“Good,” they agree.
Clark says, “People notice how you act in class. Words are important and we will work better together when we compliment each other. We will have a nicer classroom community.”