(Kind of) Random Acts of Kindness/First Grade Style

Today in school Stella grabbed a card from the school’s “Random Acts of Kindness” bulletin board as we walked to art class.  There are a vast assortment of  “acts of kindness” written on many, many cards housed on that board. Students are encouraged to grab one anytime they want, perform that particular “act of kindness” and then return the card with a little note on it.

Apparently Stella felt particularly kind today.

She approached me moments later inside the art room and tugged at my sleeve before I had time to leave the room. “Ms Smythe, out of ALL the random acts of kindness on the board, I chose the one that is my LEAST favorite!”

I looked at her with a bit of surprise.

“It’s the one thing I hate to do!” she said as she handed me the card.

As I read the card and she blurted, “Pick up trash!” she said in an exasperated tone, “I HATE to pick up trash! I don’t even like to pick up my own trash!” She crossed her arms and frowned.

I realized that this was a great teachable moment.  I could tell her that sometimes when we do the things we hate the most, we get the most satisfaction.  OR, I could tell her that sometimes doing something we hate makes us love ourselves more.  I could even tell her that sometimes fate comes into play to teach us a valuable lesson about service to others being the best kind of service and all of that!

Yep, I could have said any of those things.  But, instead of all that good stuff, I leaned down and whispered, “I’m not crazy about picking up trash either.  Let’s go switch cards!” I grabbed her hand and we darted out into the hall and made the switcheroo.

I decided that was my random act of kindness for the day.


You're never really alone, are you?

I sat at my desk today exhausted.  I knew I had one more task to do before I went home for the day, and walked to the front of the room.  I stepped on top of the stool and began attaching all of the children's pictures to the whiteboard.

Each year I take pictures of my new class on the first day of school.  Then, I put them onto name strips and attach them in alphabetical order across the whiteboard. I love to see their names and faces on the board everyday, and I also love the fact that anyone who comes into the room can glance up above the board and know each child's name. The children love it because they love to see pictures of themselves! They also use them to spell their friends' names, to figure out who's absent, or to help them when we are playing "guess who" games.

I was thinking about each kiddo as I hung the photos. I thought of how many pictures I've hung on my chalkboard over the years and how very many children have found their way into my heart.

I worked steadily while Pandora played on my computer in the background.  I had it set to a classic country station so that I could have a little background noise while I worked.  I was startled when I heard the familiar sounds of a guitar, and then Ray Charles' voice. I turned and sat down as he began to sing.

It was the song - THE song that mother and I had both loved. We talked about it not long before she died suddenly, thirty-odd years ago.  It's called Seven Spanish Angels, and it's an incredibly beautiful song.  

I sat in my rocking chair at the front of the room, and simply listened.  And then, in that quiet moment, I felt my mother's memory wrap me in a beautiful and loving embrace.

I love it when she surprises me at school....


Beware the Buzz at the Pool!!!

Sniff.  Sniff. Can you smell it? You know what I mean. That smell is here; the smell of new pencils, new books, new crayons and markers, the smell of new shoes, new clothes, and a new backpack and you know what that means.  School is in the air!   Perhaps the biggest sign that school is right around the corner is the buzz that is flying around the pool, in the supermarket and at your local fall sporting practices.  Who will get the Best Teacher of All?  Who will be the lucky kids to get in the Best Teacher of All’s class?

Remember on Mary Poppins, when Jane and Michael wrote a letter and asked for the perfect nanny?  The father was stunned when Mary Poppins handed him the list that he had thrown into the fire.   It went something like this:

(Start humming…) “If you want this choice position, have a cheery disposition; rosy cheeks, no warts; play games, all sorts.  You must be kind, you must be witty, very sweet and very pretty; take us on outings, give us treats, sing songs, bring sweets.”   

That’s what keeps going through my mind at this time of year. That super duper wish list.   The wish list each parent and child has.  Here’s what I think the wish list is for the perfect teacher.  Wanted:  teacher; must be sweet, even-tempered, hip, funny, pretty, smart, young, experienced and energetic.  Must never yell, get mad, throw things or lose her temper.  Must be very patient, wear stylish clothes, have a lovely laugh and smell like fresh baked cookies.  

So, basically, that would count me out.  (And, perhaps, everyone I know.)

While we teachers may not all be young or hip or very tall, there are some things we have in common.   We are committed to our jobs and to your kids.  These are some of the things we can promise you.    We will get to know your child inside and out; we will learn about his pets, his siblings, his likes and dislikes and will always notice when he gets a hair cut.  We will push him to be independent, self-sufficient, confident and responsible.   We will help guide him when things don’t go his way and will laugh with him (and applaud) when they do. We will push him until he reaches the potential that we know he has, and we will be there when he falls, to pick him back up, dust him off and start him back up that hill.  That’s our job, and that’s what we love to do. 

Contrary to what my kindergarteners recommended to our student intern, we will not be teaching kickboxing, having cinema time every day; they cannot ride mechanical bulls in class, skateboard off the roof (with kneepads, of course) and we will not buy them happy meals for lunch once a week. (I gotta give them credit for trying, however.)

As a mom, I’ve learned that often the teachers who work with my child every day know more about what is a good match for him than I do.  I have learned that it is important for me to keep my mouth shut on some occasions and it is equally important to voice my concerns at others.  I have learned that a teacher that was not the best match for Mrs. Jones’ son (that darned Mrs. Jones—always so hard to keep up with), was the perfect teacher for my son.

Yeah, we teachers don’t all look alike.  Some of us are tall, short, skinny, chunky, old, young, and black and white.  However, we all love kids and want what is best for these young souls.  So please; trust us, respect us and join us in making this the Best Year Ever for your child.   One more thing - beware the buzz at the pool.  Sometimes that bee will come right back and sting ya.

(This may be a re-post, but it's one I wish every parent would read before school begins!!) 

(And in case you have a few bucks to spare, this teacher would love her class to enjoy these seats!!!)