Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Words of Inspiration

One of the ways we focus on everyday kindness is discovering ways to lift up others, making them smile, changing their perspective. As teachers, we do this in simple ways. We greet our students at the door by name. We share a shout-out of praise for a job well done. We make a point to acknowledge ways our students are nice to others and how they help in the classroom.

Our students have the same power to impact others! One way they can let their kindness shine is by sharing their positivity through posters. During our winter party, students worked with parent volunteers to create colorful, personalized posters of kindness after brainstorming and researching quotes online.

When we returned to school in January, we brainstormed locations around the school we could hang our posters to have the greatest impact. We came up with so many places!

Students worked in small groups to add tape to their posters and hang them around the school. From the cafeteria to hallways to water fountains, we sprinkled inspiration of kindness everywhere!

HEF Celebration Gala

In December, Mrs. Cross and I were honored by the Hanover Education Foundation for our grant project, "A Passion for Kindness." This annual event spotlights the different grant projects funded for the upcoming year as well as recognizing each school's Teacher of the Year and the district's Teacher of the Year. It was humbling to share this evening with so many teachers from Mechanicsville Elementary, many of whom had also received funding for their creative projects!

Brainstorming RAKs

After learning about our random act of kindness project, students were very excited to move forward in the process. The next time we were together, we talked about acts of kindness we had completed on our calendar, then separated into small groups to start our project brainstorming lists.

The students came up with so many ideas! They were very excited to hang their lists in the hallway as a reminder of all the different ways people can show kindness to one another.

When we return to school in January, we will start working independently to develop our projects with the goal of completing them in February and sharing with the world in the spring!

December RAKs

To encourage our students to share kindness throughout the month of December, we created a Kindness Calendar for them to complete. Each day listed a different act of kindness. The students were excited to cut these out and glue them into their kindness journals and we enjoyed reflecting on what they had done during our weekly lessons!

Part of our joy as educators is seeing students take what we are learning in school and applying it to the world around them. As you can see from the Facebook message below, our students went above and beyond by making placemats as part of a math activity which benefitted homeless guests staying at a local church. One student volunteered her time with Mrs. Cross to help during their stay and unbeknownst to them both, they wore the exact same shirt!

Our students are taking initiative to shine in kindness, bringing more good in the world! What a delight to so many!

Telling the Students

To jumpstart the month of December, read the book Kindness Counts by Brian Smith. This story chronicles a young boy's experience with random acts of kindness and how his feelings about kindness changed the more he saw and participated in kind acts around him.

For many of our students, this was the first time they had heard the phrase random acts of kindness. How was this different than just being nice? Why was it important to do intentional and random acts of kindness? These questions sparked conversation between students as we delved deeper into this mindset of being kind to others.

Due to a fire drill, our lesson was cut short, but we had just enough time to unveil our main project: Each student would receive a $10 bill to cover the costs of doing a random act of kindness for someone else!

Oh, if you could have only seen their shocked faces and squeals of disbelief!

"Wait... what?"

 "Did she just say..."

 "You mean REAL money?!"

Mrs. Cross and I delightfully replied, "YES!" We explained that the Hanover Education Foundation had awarded us with funding so all the students in our class could create projects of kindness, then share what they had done. The children were SO excited; they couldn't wait to get started!

We sent a formal letter home to parents explaining our purpose, including a space at the bottom for photo permissions as we share our projects in person and online. Less than two weeks later, we had 100% parental support of our project! JOY! We look forward to seeing our students shine with their creative kindness!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Kindness Journals

Today we officially rolled out our kindness initiative in Mrs. Cross' fourth-grade class! We began by reading Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts. This story, about a boy who wanted the same shoes his classmates wore, resonated with many of our students.

Following the story, we had a great discussion about the feelings people have when they want something they can't have, and how those feelings change when someone does something nice. We asked our students, "How do YOU feel when you receive an act of kindness?"

Students responded with "good" and "great," then we asked them to dig deeper. "What do those words mean? Are there any other words that might better represent the feelings you have?" Oh my goodness! The adjectives tumbled out of our students like rolling rapids! Look at all these awesome descriptors our students shared:

One student replied, "bad" and we asked him to tell us more. "I feel bad when people are nice to me, because I feel like I have to do something nice right back. It feels bad to receive kindness and not do something in return." This is was a very insightful response from a nine-year-old! We discussed how kindness does sometimes makes us feel odd for several reasons: we're aren't used to receiving kindness from others, we don't know what to say in return, we feel like it's wrong to take something from someone one else without an even exchange. We decided the word "uncomfortable" best described this feeling, so we added it to our list.

Next, we created Kindness Journals using composition notebooks and decorated them using markers, tagboard, and tape. The students allowed their creativity to shine as they designed their book covers.

Since today is Friday, we created a #FlyHighFri section in our Kindness Journals to keep a running list of any kind acts we see and do on Fridays, which we will share throughout the year with our classmates and on Twitter.

Students also applied this concept of kindness to their writing as they replied to a #FlyHighFri prompt in their Google Classroom:

It's such a joy to see our students helping each other in class and sharing their experiences with kindness. We have lots of activities planned this year to create a culture of kindness at our school and today was just the beginning! 

A special thanks to the Hanover Education Foundation for funding this grant proposal, "A Passion for Kindness." We can't wait to showcase all the ways our students can be kind to others!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Sofa, Tables, and Books, Oh My!

The first two weeks have passed in the blink of an eye! The hustle and bustle of starting a new school year mixed with my children's Back to School nights and the start of fall sports have me running nonstop from morning to night. Surely you can relate!

I have so many wonderful updates to share about our Tiny Tech Cafe. This project, which began as a little dream of mine, has quickly taken shape and continues to evolve with great support from students, teachers, community members and even complete strangers! (For those of you wondering, "What's a Tiny Tech Cafe?" click here for our first round of updates.)

In my last post, I outlined the structure and purpose of the cafe and shared a few photos of our green screen area, our bar-height table and chairs, our logo and SAMR display. Now I am excited to share that our Tiny Tech Cafe includes a bookshelf, a sofa, an additional table, two bar stools, and a hanging curtain divider, all financed with the generous donations to our GoFundMe campaign!

WOW! Can you believe all that's happened in just TWO WEEKS?! It's incredible! 

The Tiny Tech Cafe was dedicated on September 6, 2016, the first day of school, in memory of my mother-in-law who would have celebrated her 69th birthday that day. She was a Mechanicsville Elementary School parent almost forty years ago and in my early days as a classroom teacher, she would lovingly make curtains and tablecloths for my room. Even though she passed away in March of this year, I wanted a little bit of her to shine through our cafe, so I created a small memorial in her honor:

We've been blessed by several random acts of kindness these past two weeks as well! One teacher made a lighted display and another custom-ordered a JOY pillow from two of our parents. We also had a visit from one of our retired teachers who donated additional pillows to our cafe so we can switch them out for the seasons!  

Oh, the indescribable JOY of so many people working together to make a vision come to life!

Our Tiny Tech Cafe campaign will remain active through the month of October with our focus now shifting to stocking our Lending Library with  awesome, new, relevant, inspiring books for teachers to borrow and read. (If you have a suggestion of a great book, leave a comment on this blog post! Better yet, if you are the author of a great book, we would love to have a signed copy of your book donated to our cafe as a wonderful random act of kindness!)

In addition to receiving support, we've also had the joy of blessing others with our campaign. Just this week we celebrated the accomplishments of two well-deserving teachers who attended eight (yes - EIGHT!) of my Tiny Tech professional development sessions last year. All of these sessions were optional, so their attendance and implementation of what they had learned was incredible! These ladies will enjoy a sweet treat at Starbucks thanks to the generous donors of the Tiny Tech Cafe!

Below are all the blog posts I've shared about our recent updates (believe it or not, this post is only a brief summary!) Click the links below to discover our latest news:

Post 1 - Tiny Tech Cafe
Post 2 - Coffee, Anyone?
Post 3 - When You Wish
Post 4 - Making Progress
Post 5 - Cardinal Love
Post 7 - We Have a Sofa!
Post 8 - Sit or Stand

To date, we've received funding from 17 donors - so amazing! I cannot begin to express how thankful I am for all your support! It's our goal to purchase the Green Screen app in the next week and start filling the bookshelf with more books. If you would like to join in as one of our donors (and earn rewards, too!) click here! When the campaign closes at the end of October, we will have a sign displayed in the Cafe listing all our donors and contributors, celebrating the joy that's created when we all work together to achieve a goal!

Please consider sharing this blog post with a friend or a member of your PLN. Perhaps they, too, would be inspired by designing a Tiny Tech Cafe in their building!

Thanks again for all your support - we couldn't have done this without YOU!