Tuesday, March 7, 2017

When Ordinary is Extraordinary

For the past few weeks, our students have been digging deeper into planning their Kindness Passion Projects. Thanks to the power of Google Docs and Google Classroom, our students have been able to brainstorm ideas both in person and virtually as they've collaborated on digital idea sheets shared with small groups.

One thing we discovered when brainstorming ideas is that it was challenging to start with the ideas first. Sure, we could come up with a few here and there, but then we were stuck. Realizing this, I gathered the students together and took a step back, turning this mental roadblock into a teachable moment about writing for an audience.

"Let's start with the who instead of the what. Can anyone help me think of who we could bless with kindness?"

Within minutes, our digital page was filled with potential recipients and the chatter of student voices filled the room as their excitement grew. The rest of our time together was productive as each group filled their sheet with ideas. From there, I compiled all their ideas into a master list of kindness ideas to help them spark an inspiration of what they might want to do for their Passion Project. 

If you read our list, you may think these project ideas are rather... well, ordinary. No one is winning the lottery and giving their winnings to charity. No one is purchasing a home for someone else or taking all their family members on a vacation to Disney World. No, our ideas are pretty simple and straightforward with the end result of simply making someone else smile, or "being the good" we want to see in the world.

We learned from Ordinary Mary's Extraordinary Deed, by Emily Pearson, that even the most basic act of kindness can have a global impact. By the end of the story, Mary's simple deed of bringing her neighbor a basket of blueberries set off a pay-it-forward chain of kindness that impacted 6,103,515, 625 people. WOW! Imagine the impact you can have on this world with one simple act of kindness! Talk about empowering!

Acts of kindness multiply!
Our students are now creating their planning pages and participating in Kindness Conferences to finalize their plans. Thanks to the Hanover Education Foundation, each student will receive $10 in mid-March and put their projects into motion. I can't wait to hear the results from their kindness!
One student's planning page
Students researching items costs

Sharing ideas in Kindness Conferences

You can help us with our mission to share kindness with the world by sharing this blog post or giving a shout-out to our website: http://bit.ly/MESkindness. You can also comment on this blog post to let us know how our lessons and projects have inspired you to show kindness to others or perhaps start a kindness initiative in your own school or community! We look forward to seeing how our kindness can impact people we've never even met!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Flower Power

To jumpstart #RAKWeek17, I decided to give our students a first-hand taste of random acts of kindness. I brought in three bouquets of the most colorful flowers I could find and surprised the students with a Flower Power challenge.

"You hold in your hands the power to make someone else's day brighter, more meaningful. You have the power to remind people that they are special, that they matter. You even have the power to brighten your own day by giving to others. Today I want you to choose a flower and think of someone you would like to bless with kindness. Your task is to give your flower away, then think about the impact your flower had on someone else's life. You can make great things happen for others!"

Oh, how I wish you could have seen their smiles as they realized these flowers were for them to share with others! Pure joy! They gathered around for a group photo, then sorted the flowers by color before choosing the one they would give away.

The students were all smiles as they planned their RAKs, chatting with one another. Who would they choose? When would they go? What would happen? They practiced what to say with Mrs. Cross so they wouldn't feel nervous talking to another adult. It was a delight to see them working together for a common cause of kindness!

They walked around the school, at different times throughout the day, and gave away their flowers one by one. Every single student returned to class with a smile. Mission accomplished!

One teacher stopped me in the teacher's lounge to say, "I have never seen that child smile SO much. What a wonderful surprise!"

We encourage all our readers to do a random act of kindness this week in celebration of #RAKWeek17. Be the change you want to see in the world!

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!