This year, Julia Brown decided to find a new way to reach her students. She never expected it to work as well as it did.
In August, the teacher shared a photo of what she called her “I Need” box on Facebook.
I’m trying something new in my classroom.I’m calling this my “I need” box.I’m going to set it out with notecards and…
She decided to put it in her classroom as a way to make it easier for her middle school students to ask for help. She wrote:
I’m going to set it out with notecards and pencils. If a student needs something they are not comfortable voicing aloud, they can write it on the notecard with their name and put it in the box. I’ll get back to them about it before the week is done.
The terms of “I need” were intentionally vague. Brown wrote that the students could ask for help with things as varied as school supplies, understanding a lesson, issues at home or with friends, or even just a hug.
At the time, she didn’t know whether the box would work. She wrote, “I just want to let my students know I’m there to help them with anything they need. We’ll see how it goes.”
It didn’t take long before the “I Need” box had a real impact in Brown’s classroom. In the very first week, two of her students used the box to tell her about a bullying situation that she was able to address right away.
That inspired Brown to change the way the box worked. She began having all of her students put a card in the box every day — they aren’t required to write anything on that card, but this way, everyone uses the “I Need” box daily.
Integrating the box into the daily routine really helped the students open up. Brown wrote on Facebook:
Since then, I’ve had a plethora of “needs” submitted. They range from specific supply needs, seat changes, special handshakes when entering class, after school help, bullying situations, and even daily hugs.
What’s even better is students are starting to come to me directly with issues/challenges they are having bypassing the box completely.
Brown’s innovation was met with praise from Facebook commenters, many of whom pointed out that the box makes it easier for children to approach an adult with a serious concern.
And the veteran teacher agreed. In fact, her only regret might be not coming up with the idea earlier. As she wrote on Facebook, “I’ve been teaching middle school for 15 years, and I can honestly say this is the best thing I’ve ever done to reach my kids this early in the school year.”