The books I select to read to my students at the beginning of the school year are a big deal to me; this year, even more so. I couldn’t read a typical ‘back-to-school’ book because this has not been a typical ‘back-to-school’ school year. I also didn’t want to read a book all about the coronavirus. I wanted to acknowledge how we might be feeling during the strange times that are upon us, gently.
My Heart by Corrina Luyken is perfect. I hate to use the word perfect, but it truly is. With beautiful, almost haunting images in black, gray and yellow the illustrations pull you further into each page. Coupled with poetic metaphors about our hearts, My Heart expresses the depths of our feelings, simply yet powerfully. It encourages us to be mindful of our own hearts and the many feelings it experiences. It asks us to take care of our hearts so that we may feel how we want to feel and importantly, it reminds us that we are in control of our hearts.
Every morning and throughout the day, to check-in with my students I ask them, “How are your hearts?” in response they show me either a closed fist or an open palm. It’s such a simple, non-verbal way to check-in with the whole class and with students on an individual basis. I’ve been able to connect with some of my most challenging to communicate with students through this simple exchange. The power in simplicity always amazes me.