Monday, February 16, 2015

Random Acts of Kindness?

Today is day four away from school -- a lovely long weekend that I've spent playing with fabric and thread, antiquing a bit, and rearranging my cupboards with new tupperware containers.  (I just realized how lame that last phrase sounds.... oh well, it's true.)  It's been the perfect reflective down time for me.  I've also written lesson plans, and revamped the entire semester's calendar to be more purposeful, and not overwhelm myself with 30 research papers to grade over Memorial Day weekend, because, well, I don't really don't want to be up against that kind of time crunch at the end of the school year.

I've also been in dry-dock, in terms of inspiration for the blog today.  This is proof, I suppose, that I need to go back to school tomorrow -- even if they are predicting  6 inches of snow overnight, causing me to doubt an on-time start, if at all.  So I turned to my friends at Te@chthought for inspiration.

For February, they are sharing one prompt a week:

How can we teach students to pay kindness forward 

- to give expecting nothing in return?

About the sweetest thing that I read this weekend was the story of Dan Williams of Edmond, Oklahoma.    The kid started planning, last summer, to make Valentine's Day special for every single girl in his school.  All 1076 of them.  What was his motivation?

“To know that someone cares about them, that’s the best feeling in the world I think.”

His original plan did not include revealing his identity, but it happened anyway, probably causing more recognition than was comfortable for him. The wire services picked up the story, which has caused more than a few gulps and teary eyes over this weekend of love.

If, however, that such acts of kindness were commonplace, Dan Williams might have been able to remain anonymous.

Are we a society who now relies on the random acts of kindness, as suggested by Jonathan Zittrain in his TED Talk.?  Is the common decency of sharing research you've done without some sort of proprietary right to that information, as far as RAKs can go?

Or can we prompt students -- and adults for that matter - they way Orly Wahba did when she saw thirsty construction workers in her neighborhood?  You've seen messages of encouragement inside Snapple lids, and on the cups at Chipotle.  Do they matter?  Do they incite change?

So this week, my bulletin board is changing.  Right now it says FOCUS.  I'm asking my students, this week, to find ONE thing on which to focus to show empathy or kindness (see yesterday's blog) to someone else at school.  Sure, it's a social experiment.

Let's see what winds up on the board next week when they tell their success stories.