In an unlikely but brilliant location, some teachers in Texas have done something startling for their middle school students for the year ahead.
And at Warren Middle School in Forney, Texas (near Dallas), the teacher- and staff-driven project instantly went viral on social media.
To date, photos of the beautifully painted messages have been shared nearly 50,000 times and have garnered thousands of positive comments.
“I am all for this project!” said Kim Casey, a special education teacher at Waukee High School in central Iowa — adding that she hopes to create a similar message on the wall of her own classroom in the near future.
We’re so excited to start phase 1 of our bathroom inspiration project! We can’t wait for our Warriors to see it in…
As the Facebook post chronicling phase one of the “bathroom inspiration project” noted, four teachers took time during their summer break to paint fantastic, inspirational messages — in the student bathrooms.
The artwork included phrases like “bloom where you are planted,” “your mistakes don’t define you,” “real girls aren’t perfect; perfect girls aren’t real,” “work hard; dream big,” “no one ever made a difference by being like everyone else,” and “you are amazing; you are brave; you are strong.”
As the school administration of Warren Middle School posted on Facebook about the project last week, “We’re so excited to start phase 1 of our bathroom inspiration project! We can’t wait for our Warriors to see it in August!! A huge thank you to Mrs. Torres, Mrs. Reigelman, Mrs. Durant and Ms. Moore for helping us during your summer break! We appreciate you!”
“Unfortunately, society has a standard for all kids, particularly girls, to live by, and if they don’t, they are made to feel worthless,” said Kim Casey of Iowa.
“I am blessed to work in a school where kids with special needs have many opportunities and are included all the time. Students are genuinely kind to them,” she added.
To Casey, one of the most poignant messages was this one: “Your mistakes don’t define you.”
“Kids are so worried about being remembered for mistakes, instead of moving on,” Casey said of that particular message.
“I tell my students, and my own kids, ‘You aren’t a bad kid. You just made a mistake. Now take what you learned from it and remember that.’ I always tell them every action has consequences — you choose your consequence.”
Inspirational messages in bathrooms may seem unusual — but the idea has its merits (and it’s not the first time it’s been done by teachers).
Bathrooms are where kids check themselves in the mirror, compare themselves to others to determine if they physically measure up, or even go to find a bit of private respite if they’re upset. These are also the go-to spots frequented by adolescents — both boys and girls — who are struggling with bulimia.
“This is a wonderful project,” said Elaine Kiely Kearns, who teaches middle schoolers at St. James the Apostle in Carmel, New York, when she heard about it.
“It’s important that middle school children understand that they each have wonderful and unique qualities that make them special,” she told LifeZette. “Seeing these messages in their personal space could raise and reinforce their self-esteem, which can be particularly fragile in the middle school years.”
“It’s important to ingrain in the students these wonderful, positive thoughts.”
“That’s awesome,” added Jessica Riddle, chair of the visual arts department at Mehlville High School in St. Louis, Missouri. “We are doing the exact same thing at our high school before school starts in a month. As a national school of character, we have learned how important it is to ingrain in the students these wonderful, positive thoughts.”
Riddle also noted, “Just seeing these messages in front of their eyes is enough to remind them — at a time when they are struggling to figure out who they are — how wonderful they really are. We post messages like these before finals every year and flyers all over the building in classrooms, but this year we decided to paint it on the bathroom doors so they are reminded every day.”
Bravo to these teachers and staff — and may others be inspired by this thoughtfulness and creativity.
This article has been updated.
Michele Blood is a Flemington, New Jersey-based freelance writer and a regular contributor to LifeZette.