I have a chunk of wall by my desk that I reserve for insightful sticky notes. These sticky notes hold the words that jump out at me in my daily reading life, and the phrases that float by in my daily listening life.
For awhile, like for 13 years, I used this space (or a space quite like it in our old school building) to solely gather words that my students let fly. Having a collection of easily accessible vocal gems allowed me to reminisce, to smile, and to save for future unveiling ceremonies.
Finally realizing (last year!) that the sticky part of sticky notes has a fairly short shelf life, I transferred my students’ words into a notebook. It is much easier to reminisce and to smile when you are not sorting through crumpled and torn bits of colorful paper.
My wall space is now reserved for words that speak directly to me. Not necessarily to me as a teacher, and not necessarily to me as an observer or a listener of young children, but they speak to me as a human. These are the words that allow me a moment of pause when I need one. They remind me of things I already know, and they offer me phrases to ponder. They give me a broader perspective than the one that can so easily be constrained to these four classroom walls and the semblance of urgency that lies therein.
And now when springtime comes, and the 8th graders that used to be my 1st and 2nd graders graduate, I can easily flip to their words in my notebook and return those thoughts to their original owners. I love doing this. When I share these quotes with the 8th graders, seeing the confused questions on their faces dissolve into knowing and remembering smiles makes my heart sing. These moments were not lost in time. All of their words matter.