Wednesday, January 4, 2017

One Little Word 2017 - Momentum

This year, I chose my one little word for 2017 less for the word itself, and more for the myriad of ways I'm choosing to let this one word guide and move me ahead in 2017 personally and professionally. I've written more about how I feel about resolutions, goal setting and the #oneword project in years prior, so here, I'm just jumping right in. 

My word for 2017 is Momentum...MOMENTum :) 

Momentum keeps me on my feet in my classroom, reminding me that this moment of the year is the one to push forward in our learning. This moment in our year is the one we've been building towards. With a safe space and supportive community in place, it's time to push each other to work harder, dig deeper, and achieve more. 

Momentum reminds me that I'm helping my students gain velocity for a whole lifetime of learning and growing and changing and world-changing in the years ahead.

Momentum nudges me forward with bravery when the gravity of my dreams taking form frightens me and makes me want to dig my heels in and stand still a while longer.  

Momentum whispers, "change is ok". 

Momentum reminds me that some things are moving forward whether I like it or not, time moves on, my children are growing up. 

Momentum says "make the moments count." 

Momentum challenges me to be mindful to move my body, not to shrink it, not to punish it, but to enjoy it and all that it's capable of doing,  just as it is now in this moment. 

Momentum urges me to dance. 

Momentum helps me to learn to love the sound of my feet moving away from things not meant for me. 

Momentum winks at me with reassurance and worthiness so I can move my feet towards the things that are, and always have been meant for me. 

Momentum inspires me to grab the hands of the ones I want with me, no matter where I'm going. 

Momentum reminds me that to rise strong, we must rise together.

MOMENTum encourages me to look back at the moments that make up a lifetime and to live so fully in every single one of them. 

Momentum reminds me to that as far as we've come, we've got a long way to go. 

Momentum asks me to keep moving us forward and offer rest, hope and encouragement to the weary who are tired of walking the harder roads alone. 

Momentum gives me permission to dig my heels in, and slam on the breaks when I feel that a person or moment is moving me in a direction that isn't where I want to go. 

Momentum demands I change course with ferocity to get back on track. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

We GET to Love Them

We are required to teach them, 
expected to engage them, 
encouraged to know them, 
We GET to LOVE them. 

As teachers, we are required to teach them. It's kind of imperative to our job description, right?  That means we know our curriculum, we understand the standards, we have an arsenal of instructional strategies, we are well-planned, data-informed, student-focussed and we're constantly reassessing how things are going, how children are growing, and what needs to change. There's no easy way to sum up the job of a teacher, but in a nutshell, we teach. That's what we do. Lately though, guys, I've been thinking about the job and what makes us stick with it when it's hard and when we feel spent or when conditions are less than desirable. I've been thinking about what compels us to stay up late at night reading each other's blog posts, participating in twitter chats, pouring over brain research about how to help our struggling learners, and how to push our high-achievers. I've been pondering why it is that even on my most exasperating work day, when the notion of a different, more glamorous or perceivably "cushy" job comes up in conversation, it's a notion I just can't abide. "Not now", I tell myself, "I don't think I could love anything as much as I love this". I say. But why?
It's true that I LOVE to teach. I love the planning, the innovating, the creative process of planning a lesson and seeing it through (and on a really good day, seeing it work out better than I planned). I love seeing the light bulb moments. I nerd-out over improved assessments, evolved writing, advanced problem solving and I get chills when the most shy student in the room finally feels ready to take the mic and share something they are proud to have written. I mean really, how lucky are we to bear witness to such authentic moments of pure magic?!?!
It's true that it's a privilege to teach. It is also true that it doesn't always feel that way. But here's what I've found..for me, and for so many of the incredible teachers that I know (personally or via the interweb) the part that makes us feel so abso-stinkin-lucky, the part that keeps us coming back determined after a rough day, or a rough year or maddening meeting or disappointing test results, the part that COMPELS us to do more, do better, keep searching and scouring for resources and strategies and success stories, is this: we've figured out that the real privilege is the part we don't necessarily get paid for or trained for or even recognized for (although I'd argue the greatest recognition I've ever received was from students who felt it) is that we GET to love them.
We get to. We don't have to. We don't need to. It's a choice we can make or not. But guys, when I choose to, it comes so easy and all the rest of it starts to come easier too.
This is probably not a new concept to you. You are most likely more evolved than I am in your metacognition. I guess deep down I've always known it too, but the other day, I was walking my class of 4th graders down the hall after a pretty bangin' morning of accomplishing things in class, and I hung back just a bit to let the line get ahead of me, and I watched them. I do this a lot, my eyes feel bigger in my head when I'm looking at them in this purposeful way, looking to learn or see something new about one of them, or  about the group collectively.  One of my young souls had some extra swagger in her walk. She was walking the way she's expected to, but also, dancing a little. It was as though she had a sick beat playing inside of her head and she just couldn't keep her body from sassing and shimmying right along with it. I love the fire she has, the spunk. It occurred to me that with the school year still just starting out, I'm just learning this girl and the ability she has to march to her own beat...and I love her already. I get to, and I do, and because of that I'll fight for her. I'll fight to make sure she's getting the help and the challenge that she needs. I'll fight to keep her interested and engaged, I'll fight to help her keep hearing that song in her head and never let anyone drown it out with one that makes her feel less free and alive and powerful. Already, I love this kid, and the rest of them too.
 I'm reminded of the time that I sat in my son's new classroom across from HIS newest teacher and realized that the woman describing my son was someone who saw him, someone who loved him. As a mother, I can't tell you how absolutely reassuring that was. He'd had great academic teachers before, ones who pushed him, challenged him, rewarded him and held him accountable, but this one was different, and knowing that filled me with a trust that this year would be his greatest growth year to date- and it was.
Because like Kate DiCamillo says in Desperereax is true: Love is ridiculous and wonderful and POWERFUL. We're supposed to be teaching them, but we GET to love them, and I think we should find moments to remind each other of how precious a gift that is. In choosing to love them, we choose to see them and we GET to really know them and help them and learn with and from them all along the way. When we feel overwhelmed or lost or bogged down by the pressures of standards and time, we GET to trust that our love for them has helped us to really SEE and KNOW them and so we will be able to reach them, and move mountains to help them be successful- because that's what Love does (h/t Bob Goff). The risk and reward are magnified simultaneously as we let our hearts expand for the souls entrusted to our care. You know all of this, you've been operating this way for years. So I guess really, I just wanted to take a break from my grading and planning to look across the desk at you and say "Hey! How lucky are we? We GET to do this big and important and magical thing every day and it's hard and it's work and it matters, but it's also pretty fantastic that we GET to learn and know and LOVE a new group of souls every year, and a whole bunch of them, will even love us back!"
 Carry on, Teacher Titans! Thanks so much for learning and loving a room full of future world-changers the way only YOU can!!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Here Comes The Vlog

I hear it all the time: "You should Blog more"
I love sharing what's going on in my classroom, I love celebrating, and passing on the names and projects of people who are inspiring me and what happens in my classroom, and I also love to write. However, I am the harshest editor, and so much of what I write for my blog never finds it's way to the published space because in trying to perfect things, I often never finish them. ugh.

So, with some encouragement and prompting from some people who I love and are making a name for themselves in other areas of the YOUTUBE stratosphere, I'm giving vlogging a go (as a supplement, not a replacement for blogging).  It's going to be messy and filled with things that make me cringe a little, but I'm hoping to get better with time and to uncover a fast and authentic way to share and converse and celebrate and learn.

Join me?

I welcome your feedback, ideas and input! 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

#OneLittleWord for 2016

If you've been following my journey as a person or a blogger, you know I'm a big fan of the #OneLittleWord project (and resolutions in general, whenever necessary, not just for New Years). Last year, in addition to choosing my own word (You can read about the year of "Wonderstruck" here) I introduced my students to the process of choosing a one word embodiment of their scholastic goals as well!  #Grit.
This year, my #OneWord2016 decision was prompted by a tweet from an author I greatly admire.

I read those words last week and they burrowed deep down in my core and started to take root there. I jotted the quote down and committed it to memory. It moved me, and words that move me often make me feel compelled to take action. For a while, I thought my word for this year might be "Captivated" mostly because I like it better (the way it sounds when I say it, looks when I write it.) It's a sweeping word, an underused word, a word that feels whimsical, and romantical (a word I've made up) and also (womp) a whole lot like "Wonderstruck" which was my word last year. Purpose though, makes sense for where I am in my life right now, and when I looked over the list of More & Less that I had already put together in place of more wordy resolutions, I realize that PURPOSE was at the core of what I was refining in 2016.
I'm not a person who is looking for my purpose. In fact, I think I have a pretty clear idea about what I'm meant to do in this life, and so my resolve is not to find my purpose but to let my purpose be the standard that I measure my days and choices and attitudes against in this new year. The guiding star in a galaxy of choices and moments, paths and opportunities. To live, teach, and walk through the world more purposefully, and to be more mindful of the things I pour myself into, making sure that they align with what I have purposed in my heart and soul to do.

In my 2nd grade classroom this year, we once again tackled the task of finding our #onelittleword for 2016. We began by brainstorming words that might give us direction in the new year. There were some great words up on our whiteboard word splash, but also a few that helped me realize that some of my 2nd graders might need some more direction. For those who were ready, I had scaffolded some activities for them to do with their word. They looked up and listed synonyms and antonyms for their word. If in that search, they came across a word they liked better, they had to note what was different about the meaning of the word, not just the sound or the way it looked. Next, they wrote about WHY they had chosen their word, and HOW they were going to use that word to help direct their new year. I gave students the option to transform their writing into an artblog on SeeSaw or an imovie using the ipads. Most of the kids selected the imovie. Their next step was to "StoryBoard" some scenarios that showed their #oneword in action. I asked them to think about these things:
What does that LOOK like?
How can you act it out?
Where would I see you practicing your word here at school?
They were also allowed to pull photographs from our SM feeds if they thought the pictures fit in with demonstrating their word. Once the story boards were finished, the students were allowed to direct some other students, and even myself in acting out their word.
Once they had collected some footage on the ipads, they met with me in small groups. They chose a trailer theme and I showed them how to drag and drop clips and photos into the imovie template (I LOVE imovie for making this so easy for kids and the finished product always looks so good!!!) Most of the kids found that they had some holes to fill, so they went back to filming. I started the project off being very hands-on but was soon able to assign class "experts" to help groups finish up while I met with guided reading groups or conferenced with writers.
The finished products are something that made us all feel proud and inspired!

You can find a playlist of ALL the finished #oneword videos here.  We'd love to hear your #oneword for this new year, and how your classrooms come back from the holiday break resolute to make the most out of the 2nd part of the school year! 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Children should be seen AND heard...

In my short teaching career, (almost 11 years is short, right?) I have changed my strategies, philosophies and practices on many aspects of my craft. I have taught science, 4th grade and 2nd grade, all of which provided me with unique learning experiences, challenges, and perspective. There are a great number of things that I would go back and tell my former, newly-minted, teacher-self about teaching, if such a nerdtastic time-traveling opportunity presented itself. With that opportunity, I could save myself a lot of sleepless nights, bombed lessons and rooms full of crickets (chirp...silence..chirp). Grit-touters, be not offended. I promise, if given the aforementioned time-travel capability, I'd find some other fun aspect of the space-time continuum to disrupt, as I am well aware that the most painful and awkward moments of my teaching career thus far, have surely led me to deeper understandings of my profession, my students and myself. No short-cuts. Onward and upward, to infinity and beyond!

Perhaps the greatest lesson I have learned in my career though, is also one of the greatest lessons I have learned in my life, and it's a favorite of sorts, because this understanding is cemented in me, and ingrained in my philosophy as a teacher (and mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend, neighbor, writer, human, etc) in the most beautiful and soul-nurturing way. The lesson is simply this: Children need to be seen and heard to feel safe and loved enough to learn and question, grow and thrive. You can replace the word "Children" in the above statement with "people" and I believe the same rings true. The "seeing" part can be the most tricky part of that equation. I'm not talking about seeing with your eyes, I'm talking about seeing what is beneath the exterior, I'm talking about investing your time and energy, intuition and empathy into getting to really know each one of the 15-50 people in front of you each day. What makes them tick, laugh, shrink and glow. What interests and motivates them? What frightens and stifles them? In the current educational climate of "rigor" (a word I'm contemplating a lot in my best-practice reflections lately) testing, and achievement measures, we're still compelled to find out more about the people behind the numbers on the page (or we ought to be). One of the greatest extensions of this lesson though, has been the importance of not only really listening to and seeing each of my students but helping them learn to see and be seen by one another (#empathy).
The most powerful example of this began with a Christmas project I started in my 4th grade classroom 6 years ago. You can read that story here. This year, I brought that project back with a makeover in my 2nd grade classroom, and once again this idea that children thrive on being seen and known, loved and understood by not just me but by their peers as well, brought Christmas to life in my heart and my classroom once again.

Early on the last week before break, my students selected the name of one of their classmates. To tie in with our descriptive, opinion and informative writing lessons (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.2.1) the students generated a collective list of positive attributes and we listed them on our front board for inspiration. Then the students wrote (on paper shaped like a Christmas bulb, because this is 2nd grade and #cutematters) to the prompt "How is this person a light in this world, our world?"
Decorating each other with affirmations and evidences of being seen.

On "tribute day" each student came up front with the person they wrote about. The recipient stood on a small pedestal and the reader read their tribute to that person and the rest of the class. The rest of the class had post-it notes on their desk and were permitted to write other descriptors or affirmations for the student being honored. At the end of the reading, the students came up and stuck their post-it praise to the individual (or handed them to them if they'd rather- but the silliness factor was more fun for most to be "decorated like a Christmas Tree" by kind words and evidences of being seen and appreciated by their peers.)
As their teacher, I feel proud in these moments of the way they honor one another with words on paper, and speak their words out with confidence for the class to hear (remember, these are 7 year olds). I feel the sense of accomplishment that students who have just learned to read and write are now stringing words together into sentences, working those sentences into paragraphs and making expressive meaning in written and oral communication. Progress, Goals, Common Core, education! But as someone who loves them, who sees them, who knows their individual struggles and successes, their victories and failures, their longing to grow and matter and belong, it lights me up like a Christmas tree to see them show care to one another. It makes my heart swell to see their faces change from awkward, and trying to look cool, to humbled and honored and seen and loved.

My students live on our campus. They go home to their families on breaks and holidays and I know that coming back isn't always easy after time at home with loved ones. Another hope of mine, with this project was that I was sending my students home loved-up and seen, and appreciated and that through this project they would remember that they have a community and family here at school to return to when the break was over.

I don't usually hear from my elementary students over the breaks, but 2 of my students and their families did reach out to me over this break with positive and grateful feedback as a result of this project. Since I moved on from 4th grade, this project has remained there living on through other teachers and classrooms in that grade level and I've heard similar stories of 4th graders lifting one another up and strengthening their community through affirmation and acknowledgement. We all want to be seen and recognized for who we are, and what we bring to our corners of the world. I wish each of you, dear readers, the gift of a community that knows and loves and sees you so that you too can feel safe to learn and lead and grow where you are! More than this, I wish you the bravery to share yourself and be seen, and the whole-heartedness to really see and appreciate the "children" of all ages around you.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Loyalty, Humanity , and walking each other home.

There’s this idea, this notion that I’ve had for a long time. You know the kind; The thought that starts like a tiny seed stemming off from a quote you read or a fleeting feeling that struck you one day on the subway or your favorite coffee shop, or beneath the stained glass windows of a cathedral.

The tiny idea-seed plants itself inside of you and is nourished over time by other quotes, feelings, and experiences until that seed has grown so BIG that it coils around your heart, pushes up against your rib cage and seems to pulse against your soul reminding you of its existence. With increasing frequency situations are forcing you to decide what to do with this idea, compelling you to choose how it will influence you, informing you that this idea is now a part of who you are and to ignore it, is to reject a piece of your own truth…How can you do that? You can’t! So this idea starts influencing the way you see your world, and you feel compelled to talk about it, to provide accountability for yourself by sharing the idea with others, and then, because its still pulsing inside you and you need to do something else with it, you write it down, or post it in a blog :)

The seed: Ram Das says, “We’re all just walking each other home.”

Think about that for a moment. Let it roll around and see if it takes root in your soul like it does in mine. It strikes me as a beautiful and compelling truth. Here we are, making our way through this life full of wonder and joy and heartache and disaster, but we’re not walking it alone. Every day we come across other travelers to share in our stroll, trek, climb, schlepp, jaunt, or parade (depending on the day). Do you feel the complexity of that? It strikes me that we needn’t be lonely or isolated when there are so many of us sharing in the journey. It strikes me that we bear some responsibility for the kind of company we are when we are walking alongside one another (the people we do life with) or when our paths cross with strangers also traveling on the road. Oughtn’t we acknowledge one another? See one another? Respect and care for one another along the way? Shouldn’t we pay attention when something inside of us leaps at the sight of or plight of a fellow traveler? Are we obligated to each other in some cosmic way, and if so what to do with that obligation?

I am convinced that we are obligated to each other in big ways and in small. I have noticed that since this awareness was birthed in me, I have been coming across more and more opportunities to decide how to live out this truth. I think what stifles us in this quest though, is worrying about things we can not control. How will our choices be perceived by others? What if I am kind and the the kindness was not deserved? What if in bearing the burden of a friend and in walking alongside them in a time of hurt, I am weighed down and my own journey is is compromised in some way? I am disappointed to admit that there are certainly times when it’s in my nature to let these questions dissuade me from what I am sure I am meant to do: to be my best self, my most caring, helpful, genuine, loving, empathetic, resourceful, generous self. I almost always regret the missed opportunity as soon as it has passed. Other times, I am compelled to do better at walking someone home. Recently, I was reminded of how our nature can dissuade us. I was having a marvelous Saturday with my niece of shopping and girliness. On our way home (literally AND metaphorically), we were stuck in traffic and I noticed up ahead a man standing on the median. The sign he held said “I am a homeless Veteran, and any little bit you can spare helps.” Amidst our conversation I was distracted by the man. His demeanor was humble, he didn’t stare into the cars passing him by but rather at his shoes. Of course I’ve passed by similar situations without stopping in the past, I don’t tell those stories in blog posts because they are short and boring, but it happens. I wish it didn’t.

As we got closer and countless cars drove by him without stopping, the need in me to do something only grew. I reached for my purse and my niece started in with the cautions that we all think and say in these situations. “Aunt Christine, it’s nice you want to help him but what if his sign is not true? What if he uses the money to buy drugs or what if he isn’t even a Vet?” All I could do was tell her the truth, that I didn’t want to be just one more person passing him by or pretending not to see him. It is true that I have absolutely no control over how he spends my measly twelve dollars and partially used restaurant gift card, but that’s not on me, is it? I could only control how I would respond to the urging in my own spirit. I could only respond to, or ignore that call. And this time, I was going to give what I had. 

I rolled down my window as we approached him and I had to call out to get his attention. He hardly looked at me as I handed him what I’d scrounged up, “Thank you so much for your service, and I’m really sorry I don’t have more” I said, and then he DID look up and straight into my (would you think me dramatic if I said soul?) eyes, and said emphatically, “Don’t you dare apologize to me Miss. I thank you very very much for stopping. God bless you” and he did…bless me…right there in that moment, because I allowed him to, because I opened up my window to make someone else’s walk home the tiniest bit warmer. 

If you believe that your soul is traveling through this world but bound for elsewhere, if you believe that maybe, just maybe we are all called to be more than strangers fighting for our own survival, if you believe that just as others have mattered to you, YOU might in turn matter to others, then don’t ignore the call when you hear it, and soon you’ll hear it all of the time, and your soul may just delight in singing the call back with love and kindness until it echoes and multiplies and we are at HOME.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

#KindnessMatters In The Classroom

Teaching kindness and empathy in the classroom is not a new idea, although recently the idea of "empathy" as an important element to be taught is getting its day in the sun and has come to the forefront of the edusphere once more. For most of my short (so far) ten-year career, I taught kindness and empathy through modeling it. I thought for sure that would be enough. I held community meetings where we discussed issues in our classroom community and naturally mini-lessons about kindness, grace, sympathy and empathy came up. In general, I was one of those teachers who had a good streak going where it seemed that building a strong classroom community came easily to me. I took pride in the mutual respect and general goodwill that was apparent in my classroom. Building strong classroom community and relationships was yearly listed as a strength on my observations. Things were just peachy. Then suddenly, things changed for me. It started at home. My own oldest child was struggling in peer relationships, and I was noticing a significant lack of empathy in her behavior and thinking. She struggled to put herself in someone else's shoes, and could not seem to see herself or the world through the eyes of others. Sibling conflict at home was at an all time high as well, and I quickly realized that I would have to become really intentional when it came to teaching kindness and empathy to my children. We embarked that summer on what we called "Operation Kindness Matters" and kindness became a more intentional way of life in our home. We started our summer days brainstorming people and situations that might benefit from acts of kindness. We kept a journal of our ideas, our successes, our failures, and our feelings all along the way. We inferred how we thought our acts of kindness were making other people feel, we talked about the benefits of kindness consistently and marveled together at how easily we could find ways to be kind, even without much planning. Many of our projects were "big deal" projects. We handed out "bags of sunshine" to strangers in our town, shared meals with the homeless, left affirmations in items we donated, and left care packages for new moms. I knew the idea was catching on though, when showing kindness became a carrot that I could dangle. I'd say "if you can't show kindness to each other here at home, I'm not planning anymore RAOK's (Random Acts Of Kindness) for us out there in the community, and they would quickly exchange wide-eyed apologies to one another and find amicable resolution. One day when we were out for lunch, I complimented our server on her lipstick color (simply because it was fabulous) and as she walked away my daughter leaned across the table and whispered "Mom, did you see how she just lit up and smiled so much bigger when you said that to her? I think we should compliment everyone we see all day today!" And we did. Another day we were in a store behind a frazzled mother and screaming baby. Without prompting, my kids jumped to action playing "peek-a-boo" with the little one until her wails turned to shy giggles, and then complimenting the mother on her beautiful baby girl and her skill at holding her baby and paying the cashier at the same time. I'll never forget the grateful, hopeful look on that mother's face as she thanked them for keeping her baby happy and then smiled up at me as if I were doing something right. I was so humbled. I wanted to tell her that as that wailing baby grew, she would cause many more frazzled, harried, stressful moments, but that there would be moments like this one too, where her mother-heart would swell with such pride and admiration that all the wailing in the world would feel worth it.

As the summer ended and I excitedly embarked on a new school year with my 4th graders, it was quickly clear to me that the positive classroom community that came effortlessly in years past was not going to just "happen" with this particular group. Like my daughter, many of them struggled with empathy. There was constant bickering, relational bullying and I knew that teaching kindness was going to have to take precedence in my classroom the way it had in my home. We started #KindnessMatters journals much like the one I kept with my children. We did several affirmation projects within our community and then focussed a few bigger RAOK's outside of our classroom. Just like I observed at home, over time, my students started to buy-in to the notion of #KindnessMatters and soon, they were taking the reigns in showing kindness without my input or prompting.

Three years later, and we're still going strong with the classroom version of "Operation Kindness Matters".
Here's what it looks like in my second year in a 2nd grade classroom:
Early in the school year, I let the students know that kindness is an expectation in our classroom. We read the story "Each Kindness" by Jacqueline Woodson and discuss the effects of Kindnesses shown and Kindnesses withheld. This is a powerful discussion every year, and we revisit the book and the resolutions it first birthed in us, throughout the course of the school year.

As the year progresses, we choose role models who inspire us to be intentionally KIND. These role models are people in history, characters in books and celebrities like Kid President at first, but soon we start looking to find inspiration in each other!

This year, we are proud to be participating in the #ChooseKind movement as well. Our twist on the movement was to create a community #ChooseKind board. As students witness kindesses, they write them down on the board. Once a week, we gather as a community to highlight the different acts of kindness that have been recorded. The students volunteer to come up and read something that they wrote down. They then talk about the kindness they witnessed and interview the students involved about what prompted the kindness and how it made the recipient and the student who showed kindness feel. This is a powerful and meaningful time for our community as we celebrate the many times throughout the day where we were able to choose kindness as our reaction or strategy in any given situation. The students beam as they are called out by their peers for helping pick up pencils, making room at a lunch table, or paying a compliment. We are shining a spotlight of affirmation and appreciation on one another for being kind, courteous and generous. We are making a statement as a community that in this classroom, Kindness is seen, it is celebrated and it matters.

Recently, I was "caught" by a couple of my students while trying to be stealthy in performing an RAOK for another member of our school community. The kids were astonished by the idea that I would do something meaningful and kind for someone else without wanting to be recognized or even to have the kindness traced back to me. I explained to them that sometimes, it feels good to me to show kindness to someone anonymously, I don't want the other person to know it was me because they may feel obligated to repay me in some way. I read them the quote:
"A true measure of a person is how they treat someone who can do them absolutely no good." 
I didn't expect my students to really grab on to the idea of Random, Anonymous acts of kindness, and so my heart swelled in my chest when the next week there were two cryptic additions to our #ChooseKind Board. One said "Someone put Syd's workbook on her desk so she wouldn't forget to bring it home and do her homework again" and "Someone made sure Landon got his favorite snack on Friday" Syd got up and talked about how she thought she had left her workbook out herself but either way she was really glad it was out because she just keeps forgetting to pack it this week and needed the extra reminder. As we talked about it, we all decided it was a really big deal that someone in our classroom cared enough about Syd to help her in this way. Landon, on the other hand, was absolutely elated that his favorite snack was on his desk on Friday. On Fridays our snack is a hodge-podge of whatever is left from the week of packaged snacks, and since he was out of the room at snack time, he was sure that when he got back he would be left with something he didn't care for. He said it made his whole day to find the package of his favorite Lorna Doone's (a coveted choice) sitting on his chair when he returned. Nobody claimed either act of kindness, but they all smiled and looked around at each other suspiciously, in the most delightful way!
After we discuss an item on the board (we don't get to them all each week), we highlight the ones we discussed and place a representative puff ball in our kindness jar. When the jar is full, the reward is that we get to decide together on an act of kindness to carry out outside of our classroom walls, and in this way, we are learning that kindness is it's own reward.

We are viewing the world through a lens of #KindnessMatters. When we discuss social injustice, we talk about how being kind and being brave work hand in hand to change the world. When we read a fictional story, we discuss ways that choosing kindness could have altered the plot or the course of the main characters. Slowly, I am seeing my students consider kindness at the forefront of their decision-making and opinion-forming. When I recently asked them a question posed by FLOCABULARY about what they would 3D print if they could choose anything, they wanted to know what people needed that could be 3D printed, and a really cool STEAM project was born.
At home and at school, there will always be a need for intentionality when it comes to modeling and teaching kindness and empathy, but as much as I am working to teach these critical skills, I am delighted to find myself inspired and learning as well when the children in my life discover their own capacity to effect their world with Kindness.