The students in the Peer Leader Organization of one of our high schools are hosting a week-long, school-wide event dedicated to mental health awareness and suicide prevention called Yellow Ribbon Week.2016-04-19-1.jpg

The event is based on the Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program which strives to reduce the stigma of mental illness, assist students in identifying available resources, and empower students to seek out help when they need it and to help others when they need it.

All week long, we are wearing yellow ribbons to school.

But that’s not all we are doing.

Cooperation and participation from faculty is pivotal to the success of this program and to the important message it sends.

The goal is to raise awareness and continuously foster an environment where students feel safe. Some of the topics we are making an effort to become more aware of are:

  • unhealthy peer relationships
  • bullying
  • depression
  • suddenly deteriorating academic performance
  • difficulty adjusting to gender identity
  • eating disorders

When students arrive to school for the day, one of the first people to greet them is our security guard, Allen. His yellow ribbon is a reminder to students that the school is both a friendly and safe environment.

Conversations about these topics are not always easy, but they are important for our students’ social-emotional learning. It’s critical that students know when they come to school they are in a safe environment where they can talk about anything.

Throughout the halls, there are many reminders of this week-long program.

Students and faculty are asked to answer “What do you live for?” on yellow ribbons that are displayed on the walls.

We wear the yellow ribbons on our shirts.

We’re also wearing a different color each day to address a specific component of Yellow Ribbon Week:

  • Monday – Blue (our school color, to show that we all have something in common)
  • Tuesday – Red (to bring awareness to bullying)
  • Wednesday – Green (to support Attitudes in Reverse, an organization whose mission is to educate about mental health)
  • Thursday – Purple (to support the school’s Gay Straight Alliance and LGBT community)
  • Friday – Yellow (to culminate Yellow Ribbon Week and bring awareness to suicide prevention)

It’s been encouraging to read all the different things that members of our school community have written on their yellow ribbons. It’s inspiring to see the yellow ribbons lining the halls this week, and many members of our school community wearing their yellow ribbons as well as the color of the day.

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Yellow Ribbon Week is helping the school build a stronger sense of community, a community that makes sure that we look out for one another.

2016-04-19-3.jpgThroughout the day, when I look at students’ faces (as well as those of my colleagues), I am reminded — because of this event — that I have no idea what’s going on in their worlds.

Any of us could be happy or hurting on the inside, and the outside might look just the same.

Because we can’t really know what someone else is going through, it’s important to remember that, sometimes, it’s the little things we can do for one another that can make the biggest difference.

This week’s message is a reminder that we shouldn’t wait for others to say hello to us or smile first; we should all try to be the ones who say hello and smile first — that simple smile might turn someone’s day around. When we see someone we know, we should greet them and ask them how they’ve been — asking about others is a great way for us to let them know we care. When we meet someone new, we should introduce ourselves, try to make them feel welcome, and get to know them. Any of those small gestures can help others feel safe, and help those who are in need feel like they can ask for help.

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And most importantly, we shouldn’t be afraid of the bigger, more difficult conversations, because the difficult conversations are often the ones that can and do change lives and save lives.


~What did YOU do in school today?



Though I have been using Google products in my language arts classroom since 2006, this is the first year that ALL of my students are starting the school year with their own Google Apps accounts. This means that we can get started using Google right away to complete the all-important tasks of setting goals, reflecting, and self-directing student learning.

First of all, the students will become familiar with Google apps – and just how intuitive and easy-to-use they are – as they utilize Google Drive for all of their compositions.  To get the ball rolling and to set the example for them, I’ve created – or updated – all of my handouts through Google Drive this year, and I’m sharing them electronically with my students as links on my classroom blog.  By accessing my materials through Google Drive, students will see the layout and get a good idea for what they can do within Google Docs.

Also, we are using Google Sites to create student-managed, electronic, customizable, free portfolios.  These portfolios will house examples of their work from each of our units of study, the goals they set for themselves, their reflections as they make progress toward achieving those goals, data from all sources of assessment from throughout the year, and other artifacts that pertain to this work.  We already have the first few features set up, and as we get further into our curriculum, we will set up and add to the rest of it.

After each unit of study, the students will also use their portfolios as they practice their presentation skills.  Students will present their work – as well as how it connects to their future work and the world in which they live – at the end of each unit.

We will also be utilizing Google Reader as we delve further into our independent reading, so that students can customize and individualize the reading material available to each of them.  Students will self-select the blogs which they would like to follow and read on a regular basis.

There are tons of other ways we are already utilizing our Google accounts this year (Groups, BrainPop, Images, Forms, etc.), but Drive, Sites, and Reader are the ones I plan to focus on most here on the blog.

I am so happy to say that the first few days of school have been a great success, the portfolios already look fabulous in their initial stages, the students are enthusiastic, and I am excited to see just what they will be able to create with these amazing Google tools this year.

What did YOU do in school today?