Sometimes, when you’re focusing on the day-to-day aspects of teaching – making sure the kids have their supplies, covering the material in your lesson plans, coping with a lost book or an upset student – it’s easy to forget that you are having a huge impact on how kids see themselves and the world. That’s why I couldn’t be more excited to share what the teachers and students at Valley View School District in Illinois are doing this summer. They are working hard on reading, writing, vocabulary, creative self-expression and presentation skills, but they are doing it all under the umbrella of kindness.
If that sounds a little vague, let me explain. The kids are reading the book, Lead With Your Heart, that focuses squarely on themes we all struggle with at all ages – being different, making mistakes, finding and celebrating our own unique qualities, and of course the occasional person who tries to make us feel inadequate or bad. The stories in the book are designed to entertain AND engage students in lively debates about what it means to be kind and how it can be demonstrated in very practical terms. We talk, write and come up with creative expressions of our understanding. The results, being chronicled in their blogs and paper journals, show that they are really thinking about and coming to terms with the topics:
“Sometimes being different isn’t easy. People have many differences and it is important to remember that being different can be amazing. Imagine if everyone in this world looked and acted exactly the same. How boring would that be? Being different is interesting and we are all unique and one of a kind. Our skin color is different, we look different, we have different personalities and that is great! In the book, Reny is different because she hates wearing shoes! Don’t worry about being like anyone else. Be YOU!”
“I do not like making mistakes but when I do I learn from it . Also when I see people make mistakes I feel bad for them because sometimes people get in trouble and I will be very nice to them because they might be sad so I comfort them and make the person happy And even if the person is mean I will be nice to them . But when I make a lot of mistakes my tummy hurts and I do not feel good of how much effort I put in it so I work super hard the next time and I do really good . And that makes me super happy and I know I did the best I can do . But when I see kids make mistakes and try harder the next time I feel good for them .That is how I feel about making mistakes.”
“Lots of people are different. some people are different because… they have different hair , faces, bodies and etc.by the way you don’t have to change your style because you want someone to be nice to you. remember this goes to all of my readers ‘don’t judge a good book by its cover. please don’t steal anything . also don’t say mean stuff behind a friends back because if they find out you will be in very big trouble. trust me I’ve been throe one of these things . My best friend Emily didn’t invite me to her birthday because she said I was black .”
But the most smile-inducing part of this project for me, is seeing how the kids translate their understanding into the creative process. Each of the six classes is creating its own “Kindness Quilt.” They are a team, but also an individual effort. Each student takes part in group work to create the collaborative pieces, but each also creates and talks about his or her understanding through multi-media storytelling. The kids are just now finishing the centers of their quilt and have begun work on their individual quilt squares. Stay tuned for what promises to be SIX brilliant works of art showing the kids’ hearts of kindness.
To follow what each class is doing, check out their Pinterest boards below:
Copyright 2015 by Jena Ball. All Rights Reserved.