Teacher’s First Day Of School ‘Baggage Activity’ Gives Kids An Audience For Their Problems

by Leah Groth
Originally Published: 
Karen Wunderlich Loewe/Facebook

Karen Loewe taught her kids to “love a little more, and forgive a little faster” with the help of a simple activity

Sometimes we all need to be reminded that pretty much everyone is struggling with something, which is why it is so important to walk through every day with kindness and empathy toward others. One Oklahoma teacher decided to give her new students an important life lesson at the start of the 2019-2020 school year, trying a new activity called “The Baggage Activity.” The result was an experience more profound than she could have ever imagined.

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“This starts my 22nd year of teaching middle school. Yesterday was quite possibly one of the most impactful days I have ever had,” Loewe wrote in an August 23 Facebook post that has since gone viral. Loewe tells Scary Mommy that she got the brilliant idea for “The Baggage Activity” from a teacher page, and “just went with it.”

“I asked the kids what it meant to have baggage and they mostly said it was hurtful stuff you carry around on your shoulders,” she continued in her Facebook post. Then, she instructed them to write something that was bothering them down on a piece of paper, “what was heavy on their heart, what was hurting them, etc.” She specified that “no names were to be on a paper. They wadded the paper up, and threw it across the room.”

Then, each student picked up one of the wadded pieces of paper and took turns reading what their classmates wrote. After each was read, she gave the students an option to reveal their identity and if they cared to share about it. Surprisingly, many of them did.

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“I’m here to tell you, I have never been so moved to tears as what these kids opened up and about and shared with the class,” she continued. “Things like suicide, parents in prison, drugs in their family, being left by their parents, death, cancer, losing pets (one said their gerbil died cause it was fat, we giggled and on and on).”

Not only were the kids who wrote each confession crying, but also the kids who were reading them — “because what they were reading was tough” — demonstrating exactly how this activity worked to teach the children about empathy. “The person who shared (if they chose to tell us it was them) would cry sometimes too,” she continued.

“It was an emotionally draining day, but I firmly believe my kids will judge a little less, love a little more, and forgive a little faster,” she added.

Instead of discarding the papers, she left the bag hanging by her door as a reminder that all of us have baggage. “As they left I told them, they are not alone, they are loved, and we have each other’s back. I am honored to be their teacher,” she concluded.

You might be a little teary-eyed at this point, but if you want a good heart-warming cry, head on over to the comments section, where so many of Loewe’s current and past pupils, as well as their parents, shared the kindest words about her.

Karen Wunderlich Loewe/Facebook

Karen Wunderlich Loewe/Facebook

Many of her students shared their own personal stories about what made her such a special person and how she changed their lives.

Karen Wunderlich Loewe/Facebook

Karen Wunderlich Loewe/Facebook

Karen Wunderlich Loewe/Facebook

Karen Wunderlich Loewe/Facebook

Loewe was overwhelmed by the response of her post, but obviously she is so well-deserving of all the recognition. “I had no idea it would go viral!” she confessed to us.

This story is not simply a reminder of how important it is for each and every one of us to understand the meaning of empathy, but also a great example of how teachers can have a profound lifelong impact on their students. And what better time to be reminded of this than at the start of the new school year?

Take a moment to think about how your child’s teacher is not only teaching them math and english, but also shaping them into more loving and understanding humans. We need to show appreciation for our teachers — not just by buying them awesome teacher gifts, but by working with them, praising them and supporting them as much as we can. If we don’t, we risk losing so many great ones every single year.

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