Monday, December 18, 2017

Serving Others Unseen

As many of you know, I am passionate about random acts of kindness. Well, ok... that's probably an understatement. I am BEYOND passionate about kindness - it is my life's purpose! I truly believe with all my heart that simple acts of kindness are the threads that keep us woven together in fabrics of peace and joy.

I love sharing my passion for kindness in the lessons I teach with collaborating teachers and their students. Whether it's writing prompts or multi-step word problems, I can usually find a way to showcase the power of kindness in most things I teach each day.

Sometimes, however, I am provided an opportunity to devote an entire class period to kindness and that's when my heart SOARS! It's usually an integrated lesson where the standards of learning mesh with at least one of the 4 Cs (critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity). Recently, at a district innovation meeting, I was introduced to a 5th C: Community Service.

There are so many ways we can use kindness to give back to our local community! Sometimes we see a need and decide for ourselves the best way to assist. Other times we haven't a clue where to begin. All you have to do is ask one question: "How can we help?"


Then act.

When we asked our students at the beginning of the year how they could show kindness to others, many mentioned feeding the homeless. They referenced seeing people on the side of the road with "Help! Hungry!" signs and giving food as an easy way to help them out.

Our conversations since then have continued to cycle back to the homeless, so my collaborating teachers, Mrs. Cross and Mrs. Madison, decided that this holiday season would be a perfect time for us to show our students the power in serving others unseen by assisting a charity organization in their preparations to feed the homeless this spring.

Caritas is a global organization with community outreaches that care for homeless individuals for a week at a time. They provide a safe place to sleep, access to hot showers and basic supplies, three hot meals a day and lots of opportunities for playing games, chatting with others, and meeting others who can provide resources and advice for getting back on their feet again.

Simply put, they use kindness to give people hope.

We decided we would help their mission of kindness as we focused on the power of giving versus receiving.

We transformed the Innovation Lab into work stations with two separate tasks. One station would focus on creativity as students decorated plain place mats with inspiring messages and illustrations. The other station would focus on communication and collaboration as students worked in an assembly line to wrap plastic silverware in napkins, securing with a small rubber band, which would be given to homeless individuals as they sat down at a table to enjoy a warm meal with others.

When students entered the Innovation Lab, we discussed the purpose of our service and how our small acts of kindness would impact others on a larger scale. We also talked about the stations and how there is joy in the journey of working together for the common good.

The room quickly filled with chatter as students got to work on their designated tasks. Students in one group brainstormed things they could draw and write while students in the other station discussed the most productive way to organize and wrap silverware.

Time passed quickly. We only had a limited amount of time, so our stations were short - only 20 minutes for each. Our goal was simple: make as many place mats and silverware bundles as we could in the time we had. Inevitably, we ran out of forks, so our silverware task members joined back in with the place mats group to create even more inspiring works of art.

When our time came to a close, we had students count the place mats and silverware bundles. We then took advantage of the teachable moment to toss in a little math as we added the totals between the classes for a grand total. How many people would be touched by our acts of kindness?

Our students were in shock as we stared at the final sum:

428 bundles of silverware.

62 place mats.

You could hear the cheers of our students all they way down the hall! They couldn't believe how much they had accomplished in such a short amount of time. It was such an empowering lesson!

We heard comments around the room:

"I wish we could do more fun activities like this."

"I bet this is like some kind of world record!"

"I want to do this when I grow up - it feels so nice to give back to other people who need it most."

A few students asked if they could share their thoughts on the board:

We packed all our items to donate, serving others unseen:

Even though these items won't be used until spring, we know that someone will be touched by our acts of kindness and generosity.

Today that person touched by kindness is me.

Kindness inspires. Be the change! Seek out opportunities to give back to your community and make a difference in someone else's life.

Small moments matter, even if unseen.

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