Oklahoma middle school teacher Karen Wunderlich Loewe is going viral this week after posting about a back-to-school class activity that became one of the most emotional days a teaching career spanning two decades.
“I tried a new activity called ‘The Baggage Activity’. 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 explains in her post.
She had each child write down what was bothering them, crumple up their paper and throw it across the room. The crumpled papers are now hanging in a bag by her classroom door, but before the papers were put in the bag the kids each picked one up and read the message to the class.
“They picked up a piece of paper and took turns reading out loud what their classmate wrote. After a student read a paper, I asked who wrote that, and if they cared to share,” Loewe wrote.
She continues: “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.”
The bag now hangs by the classroom door to remind Lowes’ students that everyone has baggage, and her viral post is reminding adults of the same.
Everyone, from our coworkers to our kids’ classmates and teachers has something weighing on them, a crumpled thought they carry around. And that is why it is so important that we teach kindness and empathy to the next generation and model it, too. Because you never know what kind of baggage someone is carrying.