These many winter months, I have worked diligently to muster enthusiasm and a positive mindset. It has not been an easy process. I am usually a “half-full” type of person, seeing roadblocks as opportunities rather than obstacles. This winter has tried my patience and stamina. I’ve had to pull out all of my go-to strategies for presence and preservation. The children I work with have bolstered my resolve but still it has been difficult for me to maintain a sunny outlook. Thank goodness that this week my colleague, 2nd grade teacher, and good friend reminded me how to get back onto a positive path. Many of her co-workers call her “a ray of sunshine,” and she truly is. Laura always has a smile on her face, sees the positive sides of all situations, and her classroom bustles with excitement. I frequently peer in to see her smiling face and hear giggles from her students. They are joyfully learning. They feel good about themselves. They are empowered with positivity. And this is no small feat. Indeed, I feel that our classrooms have been leaking joy and enthusiasm for a long time. Much of education has focused on data and rigor, and in the process we have forgotten about imagination and play. These two things do so much to motivate children. They are so important. Laura puts imagination and play at the forefront of her teaching. She models kindness and acceptance, and the children know this and miraculously they thrive and grow.
So, I shouldn’t have been surprised this past week when I saw colorful post-it notes dotting the walls and doors of the school hallways. In child scrawl the messages stated: “You are the best! I like your smile. You can do hard things. You’ve got this!” Teachers and students alike stopped to read the tiny notes. We smiled. We felt little rays of sunny positivity shine upon us. We felt better, more hopeful. We wondered who was creating these messages. Then, later in the afternoon, Laura emailed all the teachers to say that her students were celebrating Random Acts of Kindness Day and spreading kind notes all over the school. Of course, they were! Of course, their wise teacher knew that the whole school community could use bright encouragement. I smiled when I read Laura’s note. I vowed to step out from under my dark, threatening rain cloud, put up my pink polka-dot umbrella and yellow rain boots, and get myself back on the positive path, maybe splash in some puddles.
Kindness does indeed matter! Kindness protects us from gloom. It brings us all kinds of gifts: empathy, creativity, play, imagination, faith, and hope. I remember some of my most happy memories are times when I’ve been kind to others. I love paying it forward. It fills me with joy. I am, indeed, more enriched by giving to others. Before COVID, I offered Kindness Book Club to our 1st and 2nd graders. We read a wide variety of books and then engaged in various kindness projects. I let this activity slip away, but this week, I was reminded that I didn’t have to. I could find ways to connect to kindness. How do you connect to kindness? I’d love to hear your experiences and ideas.
Books About Kindness
- All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penhold
- A Small Kindness by Stacy McAnulty
- Because Amelia Smiled by David Ezra Stein
- Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller
- Come with Me by Holly McGhee
- Counting Kindness by Hollis Kurman
- Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson
- Everybody’s Welcome by Patricia Hegarty
- Have You Filled a Bucket Today?
- I Walk with Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness by Kearscoet
- Kindness Counts: A Story for Teaching Random Acts of Kindness
- Kindness is Cooler, Mrs. Ruler by Margery Cuyler
- Kindness to Share – A to Z by Todd & Peggy Snow
- Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De la Pena
- Listening with my Heart by Gabi Garcia
- My Heart by Corinna Luyken
- Pass it On by Sophy Henn
- Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed by Emily Pearson
- Peace is an Offering by Annette LeBox
- The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig
- The Jelly Donut Difference: Sharing Kindness with the World
- The Kindness Quilt by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace
- The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade
- Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts
- Tomorrow I’ll be Kind by Jessica Hische
- What Does it Mean to Be Kind? By Rana DiOrio
- What is Given From the Heart by Patricia C. McKissack