Author: Jenna Jamieson

Why Being Kind is the New Cool in High School!

Why Being Kind is the New Cool in High School!

Students creating cards for senior citizens, military, terminally ill children, and public service employees.

Kindness isn’t usually the first thing that students think about when they first enter my classroom.  After all, high school students sometimes believe that life is all about them. And, that’s perfectly fine.  That’s the stage of life they are at. They don’t always think about others around them, but part of my goal as their consumer education teacher is to make them a well-rounded human being.  That includes spreading more kindness, as well as volunteering and helping others in the community in which they will live one day. 

I wasn’t always passionate about volunteering and spreading kindness.  However, when I got to my junior and senior years of high school I read a book that changed my life.  Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon University professor, inspired me. His book, The Last Lecture, taught me some valuable lessons.  His book and motivational video have been widely seen around the world up until his death.  His work became the reason behind why I am so passionate about spreading kindness.   

There are several ways I incorporate kindness into my classroom.  You could do this in your classroom or even at home with your children or grandchildren. 

Kindness ATM

In class, I show a video where a bank gives back to its customers with a kindness ATM.  This video is an easy way to demonstrate to students the importance of giving back to others.  It’s not always about money and loans for a bank; they truly care about their customers. This video is so touching that I have had students cry from the joy they feel when seeing the kindness that is shown. 

Jamieson Jar

As part of my mission to increase the appeal of kindness in my classroom, I have my Jamieson Jar.  It’s a small mason jar that has strips of paper next to it that say, “Random Act of Kindness”. Those strips are used by my students to give examples of random acts of kindness that they have seen or done.  

Here’s how the jar works in a nutshell: 

  • A student grabs a strip and writes a random act of kindness on it
  • Every 4-5 weeks I draw several random acts of kindness from the jar to share with the class
  • I add a bit of an incentive to the mix by rewarding the random acts of kindness that I read aloud.  It’s usually something simple like candy or chips. It’s their reward for spreading more kindness into the world

Students have actually fallen in love with my concept and now I have over 40 random acts of kindness in my jar each time I draw!  This is how I have convinced my students that kindness is the new cool. Now, you can create your own kindness jar to start encouraging kindness.  

Giving Back Activities 

This leads me to one of my favorite kindness activities.  Students are truly put in a position to give back to a stranger.  They create cards for emergency personnel, firefighters, police officers, terminally ill children, senior citizens, and veterans.  What I love about this activity is the ownership it gives to the students. Students choose who they want to create handmade cards for.  These cards are then given to local agencies to spread a little more kindness into the world. This is a great way to give back and is virtually free.  You just need markers and some colored paper.  

There are many cheap and free ways to be kind including lots of ideas you can find online.  That’s something I continually emphasize to others as I spread my message – it doesn’t have to be extravagant or expensive.  If you aren’t sure how to get started, check out these ways to be kind which will help you get a kickstart. 

This fall I will be adding another activity that relates to kindness.  Students will be bartering throughout the semester. At the end of the bartering session, items will be auctioned off and the proceeds will be donated.  As part of the project, students will learn about non-profits in the area and be given the chance to choose where the money goes. 

These small lessons that I create are increasing the awareness students have for giving back to others. It pulls them out of their normal shell.  Students develop their creativity skills and learn how to be more compassionate people. By teaching kindness I hope students leave my class a bit kinder than when they came into it. 

~jj

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Giving back even when busy!

Giving back even when busy!

Life can get busy, but you can always find a way to give back.  I recall a week in my life where I had something every single night.  However, those busy days and nights didn’t stop me from finding ways to support my community.  I had something 12 days in a row, all while renovating my house and teaching high school.

The Chaos

April was busy.  It started with the National Business Education Association conference in Chicago where I was gone from Tuesday through Saturday.  While conferences are great networking opportunities and can be fun, being away for a teacher is a lot of work – just preparing sub plans is exhausting!  Once I returned, the next day was Easter and then the true chaos began!

First, I had to prepare and set up for a large event that was the culmination of a yearlong high school program.  I needed to help students with set-up for their tables and products.  The following day was round two of set-up for students.  That evening was the actual event.  It was similar to an open house and nearly one hundred community members came through to see the products that students were selling.

On Wednesday of my crazy busy week, I coordinated our Backpacks for Success “Backpack Stuffing Pizza Party” at my high school.  Backpacks for Success is one of my non-profit projects that collects backpacks for students in need.  Some backpacks are donated from the community and others are purchased with grant funding that I applied for.  At the backpack stuffing party students decorate educational quotes and stuff bags with school supplies.  Not only was it a lot to coordinate, but I had to order pizzas which always has to be approved by the district before purchase.  Then, the local news arrived for an interview which added to the chaos!

The next day I was a chaperone for French Club where we enjoyed a french themed dinner.  This was an end-of-the-year celebration for French Club students.  It was a nice evening and students really did enjoy being able to celebrate the many different things they did throughout the year.

As I headed into the weekend, I volunteered at our local “For Kids’ Sake Art Auction” to give back to the community.  I was in charge of helping with th buffet.  We had a steady stream of people coming for food while music, games, and auction items took place.  This was a lovely event and a special evening of giving back at the end of a long week.

The fun didn’t stop on Friday though!  My fun continued into Saturday where I was a participant in the Cardboard Boat Regatta (for the first time!).  I was in a canoe-like boat with two high school students.  It was a lot of fun, but next up was chaperoning prom.  It was the icing on top of the large 12 tier cake!

The Moral of the Story

While it may seem like just another 12 days in the life of some stranger, it is also a great reminder of how much you really can have on your plate.  So often we let fear or our own lives get in the way of giving back.  You may not feel comfortable volunteering with a bunch of people you don’t know, but giving back adds purpose to your life.

It doesn’t mean you have to give back every single day or even every single week.  It just means that it is always possible to add more to your busy schedule.  You can read to youth, volunteer at an event, or bake cookies for your local police department.  I challenge you to channel the energy within you to give back in a larger capacity even during those really busy weeks.  Those weeks may seem like structured chaos at the time, but the lives you’re changing will make it worth it.  Plus, the feeling of purpose you will find deep down in your soul will make the busy schedule worth it.

-jj

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Inspiration is everywhere!

Inspiration is everywhere!

People change lives.  Everyday this happens, a person changes someone else’s life.  That’s quite a bit of power to be able to literally change someone’s life.  That’s actually incredible if you truly think about that.  Strangers, doctors, retail associates, food servers, teachers, police officers, managers, etc.  They all have the power to change someone’s life in such a positive and meaningful way.  Any person can change a life and I have had many that have changed mine recently.

First and foremost, I am mostly positive, not always, but mostly.  I like to believe that people do good and deep down are good.  I hope to leave my house each day knowing that there are going to be people that I have the ability to impact in a great way.  While I hope to have that impact, there are also so many people that change mine (probably without even realizing it!).  I like to think about how the small things people are doing are changing my life in a pretty cool way.  This first group of people that has regularly and frequently been changing my life are the Lowe’s employees.  They always seem to make me smile even if it’s the second or third time I’ve been in my local Lowe’s store.  They add smiles and humor to my life.  From the carpet guy to the countertop lady, to the guy in doors yesterday who said to us in a joking way, “Aren’t you done renovating yet?…” , our trips to Lowe’s have become an adventure.  Nearly every employee knows us when they see us coming, many ask about the progress on our house, if we are finished painting, requesting to see pictures, or just saying something like, “You’re back again” or “I think I’ve seen you every day this week”.  While it might seem crazy, it seems like their humor and smiles makes us feel like family.

Lowe’s might seem odd, but it’s renovation time and that means life is crazy!  I must find the small things in life and their impact is helping me get through the chaos!  As for the others, I met two phenomenal people that just happened to impact my life.  Both inspired me and motivated me.  The first, an amazingly successful person that owns a business in California.  He’s gone through many different phases in life and has had many different adventures, many of which I was a bit envious of, but mostly because they aligned with goals I hope to achieve at one point in my life.  Generally, he’s lived abroad and I dream of doing that, he has the ability to give back in a very large capacity and I hope to do that more and more, and he’s got a calm and pleasant demeanor that makes him admirable in his role as a business owner (I hope to become more calm with each school year!).  Generally, we meet a lot of people, but this was a person that I felt like really appreciates giving back and that’s of course something I can get behind!  As someone that would love to continue to expand my backpack drive, even possibly forming it into a non-profit, it was cool to hear that he has a passion and heart for giving back, too.  As a side note, I met him at a presentation he gave to my early bird class and he later inspired a story that my afternoon classes wrote together.  We created a “class story” together and it started with, “One day Mrs. Jamieson’s class went on an adventure to California to open a computer technology company…”.  It was cool to see the class use their imagination based on a speaker that impacted my life.

Finally, a speaker for my early bird class came and shared a life-changing story that was beyond inspirational.  The story he shared about his cousin who died of cancer was heartbreaking yet motivational.  He used that sadness and turned it into a way to change the lives of others.  The way he has used his cousin’s death to help others with cancer through exercise is one of the coolest, selfless, and inspiring acts that I have heard.  The amazing things that his program, Strong Survivors, is doing for cancer patients to improve their lives has made a lasting impact on my life.  It really gives me more perspective on why I think life is about helping other people.

With all of that, these people have not only impacted my life, they have helped me, motivated me, and inspired me.  They have made me laugh, smile, and reaffirm why helping people is what life is all about.  It gives you purpose and that will give more to you in life than money ever will.  Keep on smiling, giving, helping others, and #AlwaysChooseKindness!

~jj

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Sprinkle kindness everywhere!

Sprinkle kindness everywhere!

It’s been a great month because kindness is floating around everywhere.  From kindness days at my high school to the amazing night I had when I went to speak to the American Association of University Women (AAUW) group in Carbondale.  It was such a pleasure to meet and interact with such a lovely group of women who are dedicated to making their community and the world a better place for others.  I felt honored to be invited to speak to them about my Backpacks for Success project and my passion for giving back and helping others.

Backpacks for Success is a community project that I started so that I could give back to students that cannot afford backpacks and basic school supplies.  This is the third year I’ve coordinated it and each year it seems to get bigger and bigger.  This group was phenomenal to speak with because they do so many amazing things in the community.  In fact, one of the coolest parts that I learned that evening is I actually had the grandson of the women who invited me to speak in my one of my classes at the high school.  Small world!

Lastly, kindness days at the high school were fun, but the best thing about it is the door that my mom helped me create to correlate with our kindness message.  We created a door that emphasized what I think it important – sprinkling and spreading kindness everyday to as many people as possible.  Help make the world better by doing one random act of kindness at a time.  Happy 2019 – may you embark on my #ProjectKindnessBook challenge and spread more kindness where you live!

~jj

#ProjectKindnessBook

#AlwaysChooseKindness

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Students help make the world better!

Students help make the world better!

Over Thanksgiving break, my husband and I were driving in the car and I said to him, “I really miss my students.  I hope they are enjoying their break, but I’ll be happy to see them again.”  Thanksgiving is a time when we often emphasize how thankful we are for our friends and families, but I also want to emphasize how thankful I am for my students.  After all, these students change my life on a daily basis – teaching me as much about life as I teach them.  Teaching is also what got me out of my 3+ years of random and chaotic employment.  I was thankful for that time and the lessons that it afforded me, but I am even more thankful of the purpose that teaching and my students give me.

I recently hosted my giving back and kindness lesson in class.  It’s my absolute favorite lesson to teach.  I bring in cookies for my students and we create cards together for senior citizens, terminally ill children, and military personnel.  It’s an amazing and fun time.  The students get creative, write thoughtful notes, and draw very meaningful pictures to raise the spirit of others.

In October, I turned 31 which meant it was time to embark on a new year of random acts of kindness.  This is my 4th year to dedicate my birthday to giving back and spreading kindness into the world.  It means that I will do a minimum of 31 random acts of kindness this year.  The more you do it the easier it becomes and you realize how much you love it.  You will probably end up doing far more than your minimum once you start.  I challenge you this #GivingTuesday to use your birthday to give back.  Get your workplace to create cards to send, bake cookies for nursing home staff, or give a gift card to a random stranger by placing it under their windshield!  Life’s too short not to spread more kindness!

~jj

#ProjectKindnessBook

#AlwaysChooseKindness

 

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Lighting up your community!

Lighting up your community!

It’s been a busy few months for some really great things at the school where I teach and the community I live in.  There may appear to be a lot of division, chaos, stress, negativity, sad stories, awful news, maybe even hate in the world, but what I have found is there is actually even more positive stories where people are doing great things.  Here are a few examples of some awesome community kindness stories:  David Muir shared a story about a community in Milwaukee where a bus driver helped a homeless person in need who was on her bus.  I also saw a story where a community is rebuilding a school and students and teachers served Thanksgiving dinner in Panama City, Florida where there community suffered extreme devastation due to Hurricane Michael.  It’s our responsibility to spotlight amazing stories and make those the focal point today and every single day of the year.  That’s what will help make the world a better place and I think that’s something we can all agree we want and hope to see for the youth in America.  I recently reached out to the local Army National Guard to assist with team building for an entrepreneurship and leadership program.  What I got from involving the Army National Guard was awesome!  I teamed up with a recruiter who has helped with team building, boosting self-confidence, and demonstrating how to use the skills of each member on your team to accomplish goals.

Read More Read More

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Always help others…no matter what!

Always help others…no matter what!

Summer has officially been over for a month and it has taken me this long to sit down and write about someone that touched my heart when I was volunteering one evening in August.  I was volunteering at my alma mater because I love to help welcome the students back to campus.  It was a casual evening where I helped give directions to students, greet students, and welcome them during a “Back to Campus” event.  It was simple and easy to do.  I didn’t feel like I had done much other than say hi and welcome back to students.  As I was walking around at the very end of the night I came upon a student that was walking home after the event.  I walked by as I was browsing my phone and then circled back because there was something about the student that concerned me.  He had a physical handicap that made walking very difficult.  He was also staring at his phone with a confused look upon his face as if he needed something.  I could tell he was struggling so I asked if he needed help.  He said, “I am trying to figure out what direction to go to get back to the dorms.”  I explained the location of the dorms, but also wanted to make sure he could get to a bus because walking was very difficult for him.  It made me realize how much I take walking for granted.

He seemed very grateful for the help.  I actually wasn’t sure if the buses were running on their normal bus schedule so I went to verify it with campus staff to be sure he was able to get to where he needed to go.  He got the directions he needed to get to the bus stop and that was something that made me realize how important it is to offer help.  I came across this young student at just the right time to assist him with getting back to the dorms safely.

Not only did he remind me of the importance of helping others and being present rather than browsing on my phone, but he also forced me to think about how much I take my legs and feet for granted.  That student had a permanent handicap that prevented him from walking at a steady pace or maintaining quality balance.  It’s something that many of us take for granted on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis.  Next time you see someone who may need help, may be handicapped, or may need guidance I implore you to do the right thing.  It’s too easy to look down, look at your phone, stare, or just simply not want to get involved with others, but that’s not the right thing to do.  We are meant to be kind and help other people.  There’s a reason why we should be kind – that reason is often to help someone else, inspire someone else, or make the lives of those around us better.  After all, you will find more purpose and meaning when you give back and help others than you will in any other facet of your life.

~jj

#ProjectKindnessBook

#AlwaysChooseKindness

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How I judged someone…

How I judged someone…

This is a perfect subject as we begin another new school year.  It is a great topic to discuss and bring awareness to how we can all be a little less judge-y about others.   I’ve been taking several college classes over the last four to five years in different fields and for different reasons, but mainly because I love learning.  There were a few classes I was dreading, but not because I was worried about the work.  Remember, I love learning and part of learning is doing assignments and activities that broaden our experiences.  I was dreading it because I was worried about the professor.  I had encountered this particular professor at a local organizational meeting that I attended one evening and she seemed to be very rigid, almost grumpy.  She wasn’t overly friendly or bubbly, in fact, she wasn’t really friendly at all.  I knew she taught two of the classes I was interested in, so I would have her as a professor and that really worried me.

This is when the story changes just a bit.  I took the plunge and signed up for those classes.  I decided it was time to face the worry that I was feeling and get through those classes that I wanted to take.   This is the part where you learn that I had completely prejudged that professor.  She was a phenomenal professor that had the class organized very efficiently.  After taking her two classes, I realized how pathetic it was that I even considered letting my initial judgment of her impact taking those classes.  She could have had a difficult day when I met her that evening, she could have been facing a battle I knew nothing about, or she might just have a personality that is different than what I thought it should be as a professor.  She isn’t required to be bubbly or overly friendly and I can assure you that her teaching style is drastically different from her everyday personality.  She may not like going to meetings or she may feel awkward in social situations.  Whatever it was, it didn’t even matter.  It wasn’t important.  And it was a wonderful learning lesson for me.  I was reminded that my judge-y self needed to take a step back and realize that each person’s personality is unique and should not be judged.  Not now, not ever.

And so the complete irony of the situation is not only was I reminded to be less judgmental, BUT I also loved her two classes!  She helped me grow throughout those two classes and made me view and look at things in different ways.  And for that, I am very thankful.  So with this blog, I challenge you to remember that there is no need to judge others…we can always let others do their own thing because we all walk different paths and lead different lives. 🙂

~jj

#ProjectKindnessBook

#AlwaysChooseKindness

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Making ‘thank you’ your regular reality.

Making ‘thank you’ your regular reality.

The last week of school I wanted my students to be extremely comfortable with the concepts and topics that we had covered over the 18 week semester.  Further, it was important to me that the students could look beyond the test and the multiple choice questions.  I really hoped that they could apply the information on taxes, checking and savings accounts, and renting an apartment after graduating high school.  Midway through the week, I had a rather shy student come up to me and in the most genuine voice say, “Thank you so much for reviewing with us this week, Mrs. Jamieson.  I really appreciate all the time you have spent to do this.”  It was a simple gesture, but meant a lot that he chose to say that.  A simple thank you really is as easy as that!

My first year of teaching at my current school I felt like I was flying by the seat of my pants during parts of the semester.  I started in the middle of the year and had very little prep time to get a classroom ready and activities prepared for class.  I remember toward the end of the semester receiving a card in my mailbox.  I opened that card to find a thank you note written from one of my students.  He was thanking me for being his teacher.  He wanted me to know that he thought I was doing a great job.  It meant a lot to me to receive that note.  I felt so lucky to have such a genuinely kind and appreciative student.  And, to this day, I still have that note.

While those thank yous really inspire me and give new perspective, sending and giving thank yous is what really makes my heart happy.  I love seeing others when they feel appreciated or surprised by a gesture of kindness.  I recently went to a conference that had a small team that worked extremely hard to plan meaningful sessions.  I could tell they worked long hours and had planned for months upon months.  I sent a personal thank you card to each person on that team to show my genuine appreciation for the work they had done.  So often we attend large events, galas, conferences, or fundraisers that caused a group (often small) to work their butts off to make it a phenomenal time for others.  It is usually nice for someone to acknowledge their work and the time they spent to execute it.

Recently, I had a friend who was getting ready to leave the school I am at to start a new adventure.  We were not close friends, in fact, I only knew him on a small level.  Before he went back to his city life, I wanted him to know how much I appreciated meeting him and having him as an aide for the very short time that we worked together.  He was delightfully surprised by the thank you, which is one of the best ways to thank someone!  Lastly, I chose to take bagels and cream cheese from Panera to an office where I do a very small amount of contractual work.  It’s a small group of very hard working individuals who are very kind and friendly toward me.  I randomly thought it would be fun to surprise them to let them know that I see how hard they work each day.  I got there with the bagels in hand and they were thrilled.  The director came to me and said, “We have never had someone do something like that for us.”   So, next time you have the chance to do something small, or to do something big, just do something to show appreciation and to thank others.

I hope these stories inspire you, motivate you, and cause you to surprise others with cards, food, or other ways that show appreciation for what they do.  Let’s make sure that thank you is a always a reality.  It will change your day by making the day of those around you better!

~jj

#ProjectKindnessBook

#AlwaysChooseKindness

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Life is just a ride…you must keep pedaling!

Life is just a ride…you must keep pedaling!

It’s May and that means school is almost out.  I did a podcast at the beginning of the month with a very cool person that found me via Twitter.  His name is Chad Smart and he is the host of Positive Cynicism.  Check him out at jitterymonkey.com and listen to his motivational and fun podcasts.  Here’s a link to hear the one he allowed me to participate in: http://jitterymonkey.com/positive-cynicism-42-question-everything-jenna-jamieson/

I also did some volunteering this month because it’s kind of my hobby.  A hobby that I allow to take over my ‘normal’ life on occasion.  I volunteered at SIU’s graduation for probably my 10th time or more.   It was a simple gesture to help others out and give back to my community.  It’s important to recognize the impact volunteering can have in your local community.  With all the ways to make a difference, to give back to organizations, and to help others in need, volunteering can be one of the most simple ways to do that.  Not only does it help your community and people in it, but beyond that it gives you a sense of purpose.  That is at the core of finding and achieving pure happiness – finding genuine purpose that can give your life meaning.  I challenge you to add more volunteering to your life where you get nothing in return, not something you do at your job or at your church, or as part of a club you are in, but pure volunteering with no sub-lining or sub-benefit.  Volunteering where you give your time away for free and get nothing in return.  It will give you purpose – specifically, a purpose you have probably never felt before.

~jj

#ProjectKindnessBook

#AlwaysChooseKindness

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