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Friday, December 16, 2016

Heart Mapping in a Post-Election World

November 8 was officially my first day teaching AVID. It was also election day. I was able to avoid too much election day discussion because it was an AVID tutorial day, and the kids were occupied with their group work. 

November 9, however, I knew there would be questions galore. I teach at a high diversity middle school which includes many immigrant families, many Mexican families, many Muslim families. Based on earlier conversations, I was already aware that many of my students and their families were afraid. 

I did not want to get bogged in negativity and anger. I did not want to deal with the upset and depression. So upon waking up to the election results, I made a last-minute decision to spend the day creating heart maps and focusing on the positives in our lives.

The Heart Map assignment chosen comes from Georgia Heard's The Awakening of the Heart, a book about teaching poetry to children (that's a road I still have yet to venture down). The only instruction I gave my students was to fill their hearts with things that matter to them, things that are important to them. I drew an example and filled mine with things to make them giggle: Diet Coke, Snickers, failing students, elements of the AVID classroom... (And throughout the day, I was hijacked and students added to my heart. For some reason, they all wanted to be included within the walls of my heart.)

I was really impressed with the work the kids ending up producing. Not every heart was a traditional heart symbol. One student knew how to draw a heart organ, and many students asked him to draw one for them. The concept was the same, but the approach was slightly different, adding a creative edge I had not considered on my own. That's a significant part of the reason I enjoy open-ended assignments; there is no right or wrong.

The benefits of heart mapping:
  • As a teacher, I learned a great deal about my students. Building rapport is high on my list of must-dos for an effective and successful classroom, especially under the circumstances of taking over for a much-loved teacher mid-year.
  • The information contained within the heart map can be used for making connections to readings and as writing springboards.   
  • There are no language or cultural barriers to creating a heart map.  
  • Students are afforded choice, something they do not often get much of in school.  
  • Heart mapping can be done at any time of the school year.  

Even though this work was done my first week in a new classroom environment, one student included me in her heart map. Hers is a class I had already been in on almost a daily basis, and she had the benefit of getting to know me sooner than the majority of my new-to-me students. She said, "I drew you with a ladder because even though you are just getting started in AVID, I know you are going to climb the ladder and be a great AVID teacher."

And that folks, is why we do what we do. 

How will you use heart mapping with your students? 

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