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Saturday, February 15, 2020



“Love and kindness”. This may seem like a simple or overused expression in today's world, but leading with these two words through each interaction can have an astounding impact. Whether I’m working with children or their families, my superintendent, community members, grocery store checkers, members in the yoga classes I lead, or countless others crossing my daily path, I strive to offer love and kindness to each of them. I have found that it makes the world a more empathetic, compassionate and kind place when I am able to truly see the best in people in every situation. Always presume positive intent and make the most out of each exchange that you have with people. One of the most powerful quotes I live my life by is from the late Mother Theresa, “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.” I cannot guarantee that every exchange will be positive, but using Mother Theresa’s quote as a guiding principle, reminds me to be a helper, be grateful for this day, and after having an unpleasant interaction with someone, to reflect and use that experience as a teachable moment.

I am grateful for Dr. Jean. Grateful that she asked me to share some of my favorite kindness strategies with you and that she has been such a remarkable educator who has brought joy to so many children, families, and educators across the world over her amazing career. In 2014, we partnered together to produce the resource Teacher Survival Guide - What They Didn’t Teach You in College. It’s been rewarding to hear from educators, like you, who have found value in this ebook! 

Below are some ways that I incorporate kindness activities in my school and the strategies that I use in the classroom. 

Gratitude Circle
At the beginning of each staff meeting, we begin with a gratitude circle. Expressing gratitude for our children, families, colleagues, etc. is a great way to set the tone for a positive and energizing meeting. To start, have everyone in the room form a circle so that everyone can see and hear each other. This helps build relationships and trust among colleagues. Ask for a volunteer to kick-off the gratitude circle. This is an open forum where anyone in the circle can appreciate anyone else in the group (or send other positive energy into the universe).
We have seen that offering gratitude is a powerful and transformative tool. Often we don't realize that we forget to share our gratitude with those we feel it towards. This method offers an opportunity to do exactly that!

Tip: If you’re interested in beginning a gratitude circle in your classroom or at a staff meeting or training, be consistent. When we first started our gratitude circle at my school, only a few folks felt brave enough to share their gratitude with the group. But now that we have cultivated this practice, our staff members are much more eager and feel safe to share their appreciation among colleagues or in their classrooms.

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”
- William Arthur Ward

How Does My Teacher Feel About Me?
Looking for an attention grabber that also promotes social-emotional learning?  Try this one from Teacher Survival Guide - What They Didn’t Teach You in College.  Hint! Check out this free video of Dr. Jean demonstrating this strategy (Did you know that there are nearly 100 videos of Dr. Jean sharing strategies, tips, and tricks in the ebook?).

Teacher says:
“How does my teacher feel about me?”
Children respond:
“I’m as special as special can be 
because my teacher believes in me!”

Kindness Pledge
As kindness is such a focus in my life, I always enjoy sharing the following pledge at the beginning of each year with so much enthusiasm and joy. We teach the children how to sign the pledge’s keywords in American Sign Language. If you’re unsure how to sign the words, there are several online dictionaries, like or, that you can use to learn the words.

The Kindness Pledge
I pledge to myself,
On this very day,
To try to be kind,
In every way.
To every person,
Big or small,
I will help them,
If they fall.
When I love myself,
And others, too,
That is the best,
That I can do!

Use this cheer during transition times or when a child or the whole class deserves a CHEER!  Cheers are great because all of the children can receive them – not just the smartest or the fastest kids. Cheers are also excellent attention grabbers that can be used in a positive way. Click here to watch Dr. Jean demonstrate the cheer!

Clap and sway as you cheer for your children.
“You’re A-W-E (slight pause) S-O-M-E”

Pretend to dust your shoulder with your fingernails like you’re polishing them one hand at a time a say, “You’re Awesome, Awesome”

Now open arms outward one at a time and say, “Totally!”

Catch A Star
This cheer works well as a cheer for the end of the day before children go home. Click here for the example.
Tell children to think of something kind they did, something new they learned, or something that made them feel proud.

The teacher says:
Reach up (stretch hand up in the air),
grab a star (pretend to grab a star),
and put it in your heart (put your hand near your heart).”

Here’s one of my all-time, favorite cheers! Click here for the example!
Tell the children: “Get out your spray bottle.”
Hold up one hand and pretend to spray.
Say, “You’re psh, psh, psh. . . ” (spray once for every ‘psh’).
Hold up other hand and pretend to wipe in circles over the liquid you just sprayed as you say,    “Fan-tastic!”

Predictable Class Books
At this point in the school year, many of the older children in my school enjoy making their own books at the writing center as they’ve been making books together as a class or with partners since August.  During the month of February (or anytime!), encourage your children to make books using blank paper. They can write a word or sentence on each page that is related to one of the topics below. Encourage the children to illustrate their book so that it matches the text that they wrote.

Here are some examples of predictable class books that our kids love:
      Love is…
      I love…
      Happiness is…
      A friend is…
      My favorite things to love…
      Things I love from A to Z.

Random Acts of Kindness Week 2020
Also known as RAK Week, it is observed during one week in February. This year, it begins February 16, which coincides with RAK Day (February 17th).  Visit the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation’s website for free lesson plans, resources, and research for educators.  Also, be sure to participate in the Random Acts of Kindness Teacher Challenge that we created! Print the image, below, and post it in your classroom, staff lounge or the main office to encourage the adults at your school to share random acts of kindness in your school community!

Be a Beauty Hunter
I recently read an article in the June edition of Yoga Journal called, “5 Ways to Radically Love Yourself Today.” I was truly inspired by the first strategy that the author listed, which is Be a Beauty Hunter. Below is an excerpt from the article that I really enjoyed, and hope you do as well:

Beauty hunting means looking around and counting as many gorgeous, amazing miracles you can possibly take in in that moment. The sound of rain on the roof. Clouds parting in the sky. Puppies. Baby feet. The smell of barbecues and fresh-cut grass and a hoppy IPA. It’s actually kind of impossible to be miserable and ungrateful when you’re collecting lovely things. The crooked smile of the concierge even after you’ve missed your flight (I did on the way to this retreat). The fact that humans even know how to fly at all. Beauty hunting. You’ll be surprised. The more beauty you seek and appreciate about a person or place or experience—quieting the inner monologue about what’s annoying you (a screaming baby, impossibly small airplane seats, no room in the overhead bin)—the more you’ll actually like yourself, too. Love and compassion are just muscles. Use them on others when it’s too hard to use them on yourself, and pretty soon it’ll be difficult to remember why you were so self-critical in the first place.

Since reading the article, I have been determined to be a Beauty Hunter and I encourage you to be one, too! Try finding beauty in everyday moments and interactions, whether they are at school, at the store or at home. Let’s try to consciously seek out the kind and beautiful gifts that are in the world. It has the power to change our DNA and make the world a better place. Who doesn’t want THAT!?

Research has shown that practicing acts of love and kindness can improve people’s mental and physical health as well as improve their patterns of sleep and increated self-esteem and empathy. What an incredible gift to give to your children, families, school community and the world. I hope that these strategies inspire you to create opportunities to share gratitude, compassion, and kindness each and every day. It has the power to change the world! 

I’ll leave you with one final quote: “Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.” Princess Diana

In community,

Drew Giles, MA, RYT