A Kindness Tree is a beautiful way to focus on and acknowledge the importance of showing kindness within a school. The tree helps foster more kind, supportive relationships amongst students and teachers, and everyone loves to watch the tree “grow” as each good deed is recognized.
As you’ll see by the examples below there are many variations, some big, some small, but each one beautiful and unique. There are no rules when it comes to creating your kindness tree. Use your imagination and get the kids involved. For the tree itself, you can use paper, fabric, paint, a stencil or real tree branches. Tree leaves can be made from paper in the shape of leaves, hearts or even hands.
A kindness tree in the cafeteria at Alta Vista Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida is part of the Kindness Starts with Me program. Students fill out smile cards, color-coded by class, to acknowledge each other for the kind things they’ve done which are then attached to the kindness tree. read more →
In the book, Wonder by R.J. Palacio, she writes about Choosing Kind as the best option in life. This phrase resonated with me and sparked a new appreciation on how I discuss bullying with my 6th graders. I then came across an article on the Edutopia website titled, “Why Teaching Kindness in Schools is Essential to Reduce Bullying” and knew this was the right angle to take with my incoming 6th graders. They have all heard the lectures about how bullying is wrong. I wanted to attack bullying from a different point of view. After reading the Edutopia article, I decided to teach kindness. What does it truly mean? I wanted my students to reflect on the meaning of kindness. I wanted them to pay it forward and start applying kindness to their peers at school. How would I do this as it is not as easy as it sounds?
Our school philosophy is SPIRIT, which is an acronym for Selflessness, Pride, Integrity, Respect, Involvement, and Trustworthiness. I knew I wanted to bring this philosophy in to my classroom kindness lessons as well. After much thought, and since I teach English Language Arts, I figured the most appropriate way would be through our daily writing prompts. My goal was to share a new picture book, video clip, short article, or poem each week that spoke to us about being kind, compassionate, and showing gratitude. I wasn’t sure how the students would respond to these types of texts and media. read more →
Gratitude … goes beyond the “mine” and “thine” and claims the truth that all of life is a pure gift. In the past, I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline. The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.
– Henri J. M. Nouwen
Several years ago I had the opportunity to attend an education conference in San Francisco, CA. While I was there, I learned many exciting findings from the “science of happiness.” That weekend revolutionized my perspectives related to teaching and parenting. Since then I have been on a quest to create a happier classroom and to help other teachers do the same thing.
One lesson I learned at the conference pertains to the relationship between happiness and success. As recent research has shown, success does not always lead to happiness. Many of us know this from experience. For example, landing a highly coveted job and buying your dream home may not necessarily result in a blissful state. On the other hand, people who are happy tend to find success in school, at work, and in every domain in life. read more →
Some children spend more of their time awake at school than they do in their own homes. That’s a big thing when you’re still growing and learning. It’s a big thing too for parents to entrust their precious ones to others, sometimes strangers, during these vital years. Especially as much of a child’s developing personality and morals can be so easily influenced by those around them.
During the early years of my own children’s education, I worried about the role models they would encounter at school. It concerned me that my hard work instilling good values may be lost if character education wasn’t a priority in the classroom.
Fortunately, these days, educators are more aware of the need to prioritize social and emotional learning at school. They realize the important role that kindness and empathy have in nurturing happiness and self-esteem.
“It’s no secret that kindness sparks kindness. The secret is that kindness takes wings when it is modeled and taught with passion and purpose. When we intentionally help and encourage our students to put kindness into action through their thoughts, words, and deeds, then the world will truly be a gentler, more peaceful place. Simply put, we’ll be better.
Kindness in schools can look like a smile, feel like a hug, sound like a sweet greeting or a sincere compliment. A genuine inquiry about how someone is doing can mean so much. And when we have created that climate of kindness and caring inside our school walls, the natural next step is to take it home to our families, out into our community and then beyond our borders into our global world. And when kindness ripples, prepare to bathe in a tsunami of goodness.”
You’ve heard the old saying “it takes a village to raise a child”. When it comes to their education, the same principle should be applied in the form of a positive and proactive partnership between teachers, student and parents.
I’m a huge advocate for clear, open communication between all parties to avoid misunderstandings and unnecessary stress. Good relationships between teachers and parents should be a priority to ensure the best outcome for children.
There are a number of simple things that parents and teachers can do to support one another.
Teachers supporting parents:
Keep parents up to date
Parents who confide in a teacher and don’t receive further feedback on an issue affecting their child can become frustrated and angry. If they’ve made an effort to contact the school, it means they’re genuinely concerned. They need to feel confident their child is being cared for by teachers staying contact and updating them on what’s being done.
Send home a note
Make a special effort to call or send home a note to parents of children who need extra support or are struggling to fit in. A teacher who shares a few kind words about their child’s successes or positive progress will win a parent’s heart in an instant. read more →
As important as it is for parents to encourage, love and support their children, it is just as important that children learn to create this within themselves. It is very empowering for a child to create positive beliefs in themselves so it is much harder for people to tear them down.
Our children are learning behaviours and wiring their brain and this is why affirmations are so effective with youngsters. Positive self-belief developed in childhood will stay with them throughout their life.
We all develop our belief systems about ourselves and the world around us from our environment. Our family and friends, role models, television, magazines and advertising can either be nurturing or damaging.
It is important that we learn to take control of our belief systems and the younger that we learn, the easier it is. It can be as simple as affirming the positive beliefs that we would like to grow up with. Negative beliefs can impact our lives greatly and can be hard to shift as we grow older.
Affirmations are a powerful and holistic way of building a positive mind and happier children. Nurturing their authentic self and helping them to enjoy the magic of childhood.
Put simply, an affirmation is to affirm to one’s self. Positive words that are absorbed by the mind to create your belief system. Once affirmations are learned, they work by coming to mind when that belief is challenged. If your affirmation is “I am wonderful just the way I am”, and you are told you are stupid, the affirmation will come to mind to remind you of your belief. Instead, you will think, “I’m not stupid, I am wonderful!” Without a positive belief, you may take on the one you just heard and start to believe that you are stupid. The more an affirmation is repeated, positive or negative, the stronger it becomes.
What we think about ourselves, is how we develop
If we feel we are worthless, we will behave like we are worthless. If we believe that we are special and loved, we will behave like we are special and loved. read more →
13 years ago I was expecting my first child. It had taken us a while to get pregnant with our first as I had undiagnosed health problems, so we were delighted with the news. We did everything that most first-time parents did, buying equipment as well as baby-proofing everything because that is what good parents do, right?
Our bouncing baby girl arrived and I was a very focused and dedicated parent. Monitoring every aspect of her life and making sure that her every need was attended to. Life went on and we continued to extend the family with 3 more children, all boys. As my family grew in size and age, I began to observe and learn about what was helping them to grow and what was stopping them from growing.
As time went on, I realised that the better and more efficient mother I became, the more often I disadvantaged my children. In an attempt to make sure that my children were happy, healthy, comfortable and safe I was actually preventing them from experiencing all aspects of life. I was undermining their confidence and I was denying them the tools they needed to thrive. Let me explain. read more →
My daughter has been having difficulty with a girl at school. This girl “Mary” became a bit of a stalker and it became quite intense.
It was manageable during school hours, but it was the constancy of exchanges on Instagram that became overwhelming. Relentless messages from Mary accusing my daughter of bad behaviour. Mary snapping a photo of my daughter’s private messages, where she revealed her crush and then showing him. Not cool. In the end, we advised our daughter to block Mary, at which point the girl jumped on to my account. Yikes, it was intense.
A meeting was held at school and the cyber issue was resolved. Several minor incidents occurred thereafter, but nothing that we couldn’t handle.
Then, one day my daughter came home from school furious. We sat down as I listened to the drama that had unfolded this time. Mary had taken a rotten piece of fruit and had thrown it at one of the boys. This particular boy is very shy, a bit of a recluse, an easy target. The fruit hit him. He did not respond and simply continued staring at the floor. My daughter then flew into action (she has a very strong moral compass).
“Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears
of another and feeling with the heart of another.” – Alfred Adler
The Knit-For Service Club began in 2004 with twenty members and has grown to eighty-plus boys and girls who knit to help others. The first year, we made one patchwork blanket to donate to Harold, the King of the Valentine’s Day Dance, at his retirement home. Since then, we have collectively knit over two dozen blankets and two thousand baby hats for people in need.
In our third year, Save the Children® in Connecticut asked us to join its Caps to the Capital campaign. That visit resulted in our club’s effort to rally the community to help us send 329 handmade caps to developing countries to help reduce the infant mortality rate. Consequently, we were invited that January to deliver a basket of those caps to the White House. Elizabeth, our young Westwood Ambassador, left one of her hats with the First Lady’s chief of staff. When asked how it felt to leave her handiwork with the First Lady, Elizabeth remarked, “It was okay, I suppose. But I really made that hat for a baby.” A project with a purpose. Be still my beating heart.
When you look back on your childhood, I imagine one thing that comes to mind are particular phrases or saying you heard your parents say on a regular basis. These are most likely the same things they heard from their own parents that have unconsciously become a part of who they are. And chances are, love it or hate it, that you’re also repeating some of the same expressions to your children.
According to Steve Biddulph, the author of “The Secret to Happy Children“, parents may be unknowingly “hypnotizing” their children. He refers to this type of programming as a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy because hearing a particular suggestion over and over makes children believe it enough to make it reality.
When parents say negative things about their child’s character like, you’re hopeless, you’re so lazy, you’ll never amount to anything, you can’t do that… they’re diluting their child’s belief in themselves. These type of putdowns are like tiny seeds that accumulate in the mind and when consistently watered, will eventually bloom into a pessimistic outlook on themselves and life.
Steve explains that “whenever we use certain patterns of speech, we reach into the unconscious minds of our children and program them, even though we have no such intention.”
The belief that to be hypnotized, a person had to be in an altered state of mind or trance, is old hat.
These days it’s understood that the mind can be programmed whilst a person is in a normal waking state without them being aware of it happening. It’s called accidental hypnosis because without even realizing it, parents are implanting messages in their child’s mind that can stay with them for a lifetime.
If you’re sighing right now in frustration or disappointment in yourself, you won’t be alone. Accidental hypnosis is a part of everyday life, and most of us do it! read more →
A teacher in New York used the crumpled paper exercise to show her students the last impact that bullying can have. read more →
As a mother of three teenage daughters and an experienced elementary school teacher, I am deeply concerned about our kids. Let me explain. Children today live in a world filled with technology — ipad interaction from birth, social media from pre-teens and access to everything and anything on the Internet from a very young age. Don’t get me wrong, as a teacher I know technology can be an amazing tool for learning. Extraordinary really. What does deeply trouble me, is the negative aspect of child/learner interaction with technology.
I have come back to teaching after four years away. What I found on my return, was many children (dare I say the boys) had a much lower attention span than I had previously experienced in my teaching practice. Where once I had five- and six-year-olds listening and focused for 15 minutes, they were now only engaged for around five minutes. After that period of time, eyes started to roam, feet began to fidget and turning around seem a more entertaining thing to do!
In a time of technology overload, and on-line and off-line societal pressures, I have come to the conclusion that we need to formally teach our children the following:
- To be mindful of others and of themselves. That is, to show respect and empathy towards others and to show respect and empathy towards themselves.
- To be resilient. That is, we need children to feel confident about themselves and to be able to accept disappointment and even rejection without losing a sense of self. The teaching of resilience goes hand in hand with children learning to be assertive — both about their bodies and their mindset.
- To be focused learners. That is, I believe we formally need to teach children in a school environment to focus on a task and to slow their mind down, allowing them to sustain longer concentration.