Why I Start Every Class with the Question, "How Are You Feeling?"

When a restorative justice consultant for our school suggested we start our classes with a feelings "check-in," I was a little skeptical. I mean, I think talking about feelings is great, but would having students just say one word to describe how they're feeling really make any difference? And wouldn't that take forever? 

Well, I gave it a try. At first, it felt a little awkward to genuinely ask each of my students, "How are you feeling?" When I began, some of my students would simply shake their heads "no." I had to coax one withdrawn student to just give me a thumbs up or thumbs down. 

Now, a year and a half later, the same group of kids eagerly engages in our check-in every day. The thumbs up/thumbs downer affectionately calls it "chicken" and is the most insistent student about doing it everyday. The day after the election, my most serious student (whose family is Mexican-American) came marching into class with his hand already raised and said, "I feel worried and mad and sad." It broke my heart, but I was also so thankful that this quiet and anxious student felt comfortable enough to express himself, and knew that we were all there for him, ready to listen. 

When you ask the question, "How are you feeling?" and listen to the answer with respect and without judgment, you're letting your students know that their feelings are valid. You're also teaching them HOW to express their feelings-- something some of them may not know how to do, or not know how to do appropriately. 

One of the best things about check-in (ahem, or "chicken") is that it's SO easy to implement! All you need to do is ask a question! That being a said, a visual can be super helpful for students who aren't familiar with the full range of feelings (my team calls them the happy-sad-mad club), or for nonverbal or shy students who would prefer to point. You can download a free feelings chart from my store right here!

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