F is for Success, Not Failure

Screen Shot 2013-01-27 at 7.27.41 PMI never know what I’m going to find in the mailbox outside my office door. It could be a request for help, a thank-you note, a picture, a detailed description of what went on at recess (can you say third grade girls?), a mushed up cupcake, or one of the flurry of notes I get about nothing much once first graders discover how exciting it is to deposit their missives in my mailbox. “Can I help you with something?” I ask. Often the answer is, “No. I’m just writing you a note.” And sometimes I get something like this:

F this scool. Get me out of hear know.

Screen Shot 2013-01-27 at 7.27.41 PMNo, I didn’t write this myself, although I have to admit, sometimes I come pretty close to sharing the author’s sentiment. But it did crack me up! Why would I laugh? Well, first because it’s funny (I am easily amused.) And secondly, because it represented a huge step for the writer. In earlier days these words would have been shouted, and accompanied by either a desk-clearing sweep of the arm or a noisy, dramatic attempt to leave the building. In even earlier days they wouldn’t even have been uttered at all – something would have been thrown (perhaps even a punch) and pretty soon I’d be under a desk or peeking under a beanbag chair, trying to coax my friend into calming down and coming with me.

Also, his spelling is really coming along! And how about that sunshine-y sun in the corner?!!!

But this day, when I went to find him, only a short time after he had left the note, there he was, calmly sitting at his desk and participating in the class activity. When I told him I had gotten his note, he said, “Oh, I’m fine now. I was mad, so I wrote it and took it to your room, and it calmed me down.”

Halleluia! Five years of (almost daily) intensive supports and interventions, yet still lots and lots of issues – “Ta-da!” Magic! I am keeping this note FOREVER!!! 

The note hasn’t made it to my “love notes” file yet. It’s still in my desk drawer, right next to my favorite pen, and it gives me a smile every time I see it. And besides, it might come in handy. I told my principal that if he ever sees me storming in his direction with a little green note, he better hang on to his hat and do whatever it is I’m asking for!

So when you’re discouraged because you’ve been working and working and working and things seem like they’re never going to get better, give yourself (and your student) an A for effort, and an F for figuring it out, because you are, even if it doesn’t always quite feel that way!

Or blow off a little steam and quote my friend, although you better keep that one in your thinking bubble!

You might also be interested in . . . 

The Wildflower Effect    

Hopelessness Drove Us Up the Wall: And There We Found Hope

A Post-it Note Happy Ending


  1. Love this! I stumbled upon your blog I’m a first year school counselor and I’m hopeful I will have these types of notes someday!

  2. This made me laugh out loud, as I get many a similar message (and drawing) from my kiddos. That is a huge step for a child, and I get so excited (and amused) by these kinds of milestones. Those moments where you get to see “I made a difference” are priceless. :-)

  3. Like you said, which of us hasn’t felt this way some days??!! I love when kids are honest enough to say the stuff we wish we could as adults!! Congratulations to you; the small victories are what keep us going…and to your student who continues to find his way.



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