I am: Noblesville Hazel Dell students learn what it means to be yourself

Noblesville Hazel Dell students learn what it means to be yourself


Photo by Kaci Craig

Griffin’s class holds the poster for their friend Ian. The poster explains all the good things they think about him.

Kaci Craig and Madison Barrow

With the phrase “I am”, hundreds of words could follow. Some of them may be positive, but for some students, the words used more than often are negative. The words can vary from “weak, stupid” or even “not enough.” But Hazel Dell Elementary School is teaching their kids how to eliminate the negatives and create them into positives instead.

The idea started with the book I Am Enough by Grace Byers. The story is about loving who you are and letting other people be themselves. Karen Carter, Hazel Dell’s principal, used the book to bring her theme “I am” to life. 

The school is moving the idea into K-5 classrooms. Students are learning that being yourself is the best thing, Carter says. They are being taught that everyone is different and that is okay.

 [Deanna Cline, assistant principle] and myself have been going into every classroom and reading this book, and we’re going to read one each grading period that goes with our theme,” Carter said. “ So this semester’s book is about a kid who might be a dreamer or might be somebody who likes to shine or perform. So we read it to kids and we have some activities” 

The book is supposed to help to encourage the students to embrace who they are. Carter has been planning the theme since this summer and has been excited to share her theme with the school staff, including Ashley Griffin, a 3-5 grade teacher at Hazel Dell. 

“Just prior to the start of school, Principal Carter presented the idea to the staff and gave a passionate speech on why every student is valued and unique,” Griffin said. “She explained that celebrating all students and their uniqueness will not only build our classroom community but enhance the learning experiences of everyone, teachers included.”

This year, Griffin has seven students who were in her class the previous year. Since the beginning of the school year, Griffin has noticed a difference within her classroom. After they introduced the theme, she says her classroom had changed in a big way since last year. 

“I’ve noticed that the relationships between all students were building and getting stronger,” Griffin said. “My students are more supportive and understanding of one another and building confidence within themselves. That confidence has inadvertently impacted the learning experience.”

Griffin’s classroom made it their mission to embrace this year’s theme as best as they could. 

Matthew, a 4th grader in Griffin’s class, was one of the students that went beyond the classroom and helped spread the message about believing in who you are by putting up QR codes with inspiring messages around the school to lift up spirits at Hazel Dell.  

We wanted people to think that they were really good for themselves,” Matthew said. “These QR codes may have ‘I am smart’. Because you can [help] someone who is having a bad day, you can say ‘You are enough’ and have them feel better.”

Every morning, students in Griffin’s class sit in a community circle and go around telling each other that they are enough. This is just another way to show each other that they care and understand that people are not always the same. Xander,  a 4th grader in Griffin’s class, says that same phrase everyday to the person he sits next to. 

Not only has this affected the students by helping them have a better understanding about self worth, but Griffin has also been affected by the theme of the year. The theme “I am” is interpreted differently by everyone, but to Griffin, it represents something more. 

“To me, the theme “I am” represents love. It embodies all the things that we need to grow and evolve as a society, Griffins said. “Celebrating individuality and allowing each other to contribute to our community allows the American dream to live on.”

To Carter, the theme helps the students become more familiar with who they are than what others want them to be.

“Well, I think as the principal, it’s important to me that the kids feel comfortable with who they are, I think that embracing the talent that everybody has is important,” Carter said. “I think that every individual, kids and adults, has a talent, everybody’s good at something. Embracing that brings us together.”

The theme is helping the students in the classrooms to understand that being who you are, is the most important thing. Oliver, a fourth grader believes in the same ideas about self worth.

“Not everybody is the same, everyone’s different,” Oliver said.