education, kindness, REBkind, travel

Texas Kindness: Kind Kids

On my first #REBkind trip, I visited Houston, Texas and neighboring locations to meet kindness cultivators and learn more about character education. I was blessed beyond measure by the hospitality of Barbara Gruener (@BarbaraGruener), author of What’s Under Your Cape: SUPERHEROES of the Character Kind. She not only opened her home to me as a warm, welcoming bed-and-breakfast, she offered to drive me around town to meet others and take in the local sights around Friendswood, Texas. Although I was in town for less than three days, we made the most of every moment!

*Fun Fact for you: Friendswood began as a colony created in 1895 by two Quakers, Frank Jacob Brown and Thomas Hadley Lewis, “to establish a community dedicated to God.” (The term “Quakers” and “Friends” are often used interchangeably.) Almost one hundred years later, I would be married in a Friends church in my hometown! What a delightful connection to discover!*

Our first stop on this kindness adventure was teaching a kindness class! Barbara had already arranged to teach a lesson with Wendy Hankins (@MrsHankinsClass), but unbeknownst to Wendy, I was joining in the fun, too!

At Kirk Elementary School, they have a school-wide genius hour where students get to follow their passions and join a mixed-age group for a themed lesson. Wendy and her coworker, Christine Owings (@MrsOwingsClass), host a kindness club called Kind Kids (@KindKidsAtKirk) and Friday was their first lesson with a new group. It was perfect timing for a surprise visit!

I wish we had taken a photo of Wendy’s face when she came through the door and saw us sitting in her school’s office! It was the first time we had ever met, but we hugged as if we were long-lost friends!

After introductions, we made our way back to her class and Barbara and I blessed Wendy with a copy of both of our books. We took a few photos, then watched as Wendy welcomed her students to class, listening to sounds of “Limbo” playing through the laptop. We even had a chance to check out the students’ stellar dancing skills, too!

When students switched to their Genius Hour groups, our “class” had expanded to nearly 40 students! WOW! I read one of my favorite kindness stories, “Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed” by Emily Pearson, then Barbara and I shared our personal experiences with kindness, specifically how one ordinary deed could make a monumental impact on someone else’s life.

We discussed the hurricane that came through their area last school year and showcased Barbara’s student Jet Stream Jax (both of whom are spotlighted in Chapter 3 of A Passion for Kindness.) We showed them Jax’s Kind Coins video and talked about kindness rocks, kindness shirts, and how we can all become kindness cultivators, too.

Wendy showed them where their Kindness Club was mentioned in my book  (p. 113) and Barbara led a visualization activity so students could see the ripple effect of kindness over the course of one month. The students were excited to start sharing kindness with the world!

Following the kindness lesson, as students switched back to other classrooms, Wendy showed us the Kindness Quilt displayed in their school’s hallways that students had made last semester. (Could you tell it was created with 12″ x 12″ scrapbook paper? So quick and easy!) Before we left, I gave Wendy a few things for her students as little reminders that every act of kindness matters.

Barbara and I were filled with such joy from our visit with Wendy, Christine, and the kind students of Kirk Elementary! It was a wonderful way to start our morning of kindness!

In March, I traveled to Houston, Texas as part of my R.E.B. Award for Teaching Excellence, the first of several trips I will complete this year and next. My proposal, “Cultivating Kindness for Global Impact” takes me to various locations in the United States and Canada to dive into learning opportunities that align with my passion for kindness. One of the perks of these trips is meeting Kindness Cultivators, many of whom I spotlight in my book, A Passion for Kindness: Making the World a Better Place to Lead, Love, and Learn. This week and next I will be sharing stories from my journey so you can “travel” with me, too!


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