What happens when you inspire children to raise $5,000 to build a well in South Sudan, send health kits to Haiti or sponsor refugees? In this powerful post, Mary Nelson, one of the most inspiring classroom teachers I’ve ever worked with, shares what happens to children when kindness is put into action.
Hello everyone! I’m so honored that Claudia asked me to join the talented guest authors in contributing to the Kindness Project!
As a teacher, one of my most important goals with my students is to nurture and help create caring and kind world citizens. It’s part of everything I do in the classroom. Daily things we do such as greeting each other each morning, or passing a daily kindness coin certainly remind students to start their day thinking of others. Reflecting back on my nine years in an urban sixth grade classroom however, I find that what has always had the biggest impact on my students, is when I allow them to learn about an issue that is bigger than themselves, and more importantly, to do something about it! When kindness is put into action, caring communities are created.
In graduate school, one of my mentors left a tremendous impression with me when she said “You can expose your students to social justice issues, just don’t ever leave them with a sense of helplessness.” For some reason, this was a phrase I have kept close to my heart from the first day entering a classroom. I know that some teachers feel that learning about tough social issues will just make kids sad – but I have found the opposite to be true. It makes them kind.
I remember my very first day as a teacher quite vividly. I started reading the book “Three Cups of Tea” to a wide-eyed group of youngsters. Some of them hungry themselves. The book told the story of Greg Mortenson, who returned from a hiking trip in Pakistan, to build dozens of schools for children he didn’t know. My students and I were fortunate enough to meet Greg later that month. These sixth graders were so inspired by his story, they started raising hundreds of dollars towards his cause. Having seen what an impact that altruism had on my students – I made a promise to myself that I would never lose that part of my teaching practice. Since that time, my students have sent health kits to Haiti, protested child labor through a school-wide education program, and sponsored refugees. This year, my students set a lofty goal – to raise $5,000 to build a well in South Sudan as part of The Iron Giraffe Challenge. Their activism led to a school-wide kindness town meeting flooded with “kind” art and poetry.
I knew that my students had made an impact on their community when I walked into my classroom after the holiday weekend, and a student who was not involved in our fundraising project had left me a special gift – an iron giraffe! With it came a note with the words of author Linda Sue Park…” Can a children’s book save the world? No, but, the young people who read them can.”
If you enable students to show kindness to the world, their boundaries have no limits.
Help put kindness into action by supporting Mary and her 6th grade class before 3/31/17 with a donation to their Iron Giraffe Challenge HERE!
Check out more wonderful ideas from the Kindness Project here (links at the bottom of the page).
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