Tag: classroom

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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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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Giving love and support to those that need it most!

Giving love and support to those that need it most!

I have had an extremely tough semester for a multitude of reasons, but mostly because I have students that truly and desperately need support and guidance.  The mixture of high school students I have has made teaching exceptionally difficult and left me grasping for ways to efficiently teach consumer education to a range of students whose learning levels range from elementary to college.  The learning differentiation isn’t my only obstacle, though!  The students I am teaching have a large range of lifestyles and home environments that impact how they view education, their ability to work outside of school, and how much support they receive at home.  This is the reality for so many teachers and I  know I am not the exception.

Combine my class concerns with some of the school dynamics I have faced including not having a classroom – wheeling around a cart to four different rooms throughout the day to teach has been a chaotic, mountain-climbing adventure.  To add to the mountain, I had some students going through some major life struggles which included me assisting with several emotionally and mentally draining situations that has left me feeling unsettled on more than one occasion.  Additionally, I teach in some classrooms with computers and in other classrooms with no computers which creates another level of structured chaos when it comes to planning lessons, adding another piece to my puzzle that I have to carefully put together.

BUT, there is a silver lining and there actually always is one no matter what the situation is!  My students may show a long list of emotions in the classroom because of their diverse backgrounds that range from anger, happiness, sadness, frustration, bitterness, humor, fun, and every emotion in between.  Each with a unique personality and style, but many of them with their own baggage, their own insecurities, their own challenges and successes, and most of all their own story.  A story that is sometimes broken, sometimes not broken, and sometimes underdeveloped.  I sometimes feel an overwhelming amount of chaos when there is a group of such a variety in my hands because it makes for a very stressful semester, but these are the students that need love, guidance, and support the most.  I became their teacher for a reason and that’s just the reason.  To provide that support, guidance, and nurturing that they so desperately need.  While it hasn’t been easy and I won’t even pretend that it has, it has been meaningful to be able to recognize and understand that my role is to nurture, comfort, and give to these students the support, guidance, and appreciation that they so need at such a crucial time in their lives.  And, no matter what there is definitely some learning happening…some learning from me, some learning from each other, sometimes the students teaching me, but more than anything some much needed nurturing, guidance, and support.

~jj

#ProjectKindnessBook

#AlwaysChooseKindness

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Ice cream before dinner…why, yes!

Ice cream before dinner…why, yes!

I found out at the beginning of June that I wouldn’t be teaching at CCHS next year because I don’t hold an endorsement that allows me to teach Webpage Design and Programming classes and those are two classes that will be offered next year.  I’m not going to pretend that I wasn’t disappointed.  I was disappointed.  And, a lot.  I live right by my high school and I drive past it almost every single day.  To be honest, it just sucks (and sometimes you face these types of challenges on the way up the mountain of life).  I loved my job, and more than anything I loved inspiring my students.  I’m going to let my guard down a little bit more than normal in this post, and it will probably humanize me more to others and show you that life really is like climbing a mountain.  Just when you think your hard work, dedication, and passion will pay off that may not actually be the case (at least, not at the time when you think it should be.)  I poured my heart and soul into this last semester at CCHS (not to impress anyone), but because it’s part of my spirit.  I love giving back and that’s just what I chose to do at the high school by volunteering at the robotics competition, judging the high school talent show, passing out pizza to the freshman class, chaperoning prom, coordinating a backpack drive, and attending the Multicultural Festival as well as participating in it by going to each table to learn more about other countries. It was certainly a fully-filled adventure that I had (and a learning experience, too)!

I am strong though, so I knew I could and would move on (and that’s just what I did.)  I decided the evening I found out and the next to begin the process of cleaning out my classroom.  I didn’t want to waste any time getting it done. After all, I had so much in my classroom from team building games I created, a Food Truck auctioning project we did, risk management games we played, and the like.  But, one thing about cleaning my classroom was that it actually was a bit therapeutic.  I decided to clean out my classroom and then as an adult I chose to drown myself in some delicious ice cream before dinner. Yes, you read that correctly. I wanted (and probably needed) something to make myself feel better about what would come next.  That would be the ever so dreaded task of job searching.  One of the things I think I might hate most in life.  After all, I have 221 cover letters in my ‘Cover Letter’ folder on my jump drive and that isn’t even all of them.  I have been searching for jobs in my life more than I would like to even think about.  After all, my professional career is something I have dreamed about ever since I was a little adopted Indian girl.  It is something I have always taken great pride in.  And so, while my professional life certainly has been more like climbing a mountain, it has always taught me a lesson.  That lesson is that somehow everything seems to work out and that’s something I can rest assured about even if it does mean moving on to something new and different.  Remember, life isn’t easy, but it does provide lessons that we can learn from and carry with us through life.

Now that I have eaten my ice cream and packed up my classroom, it’s time to move on to what’s next.  And, there is always going to be something next (when and where is TBD).  So, now you can translate this into your own life’s adventures, the ups and the downs, and remember that moving on after disappointment is key to picking yourself back up and being better than you were before.

The cherry on top of my ice cream is that on my very last day one of my students from spring semester came up to talk to me.  I told him that I wasn’t rehired and that I wouldn’t be back at CCHS next year. He said, “I’m going to miss seeing you next year.”  He is one of those students that always said, “Hi, Mrs. Jamieson” in the hallways and always interacted with his teachers.  As he walked away after I told him good luck at his SkillsUSA competition that was coming up he said, “I liked having you as a teacher, Mrs. Jamieson.”

~jj

#ProjectKindnessBook

#AlwaysChooseKindness

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Finding meaning among structured chaos!

Finding meaning among structured chaos!

This new adventure at my old high school has proven to be a very fun one.  I love getting involved and supporting the students.  The atmosphere is awesome and that’s probably what I love most about being there.  There are great ways to give back and that’s what I find really cool about it.  I have the opportunity to impact the lives of young high school students and that’s pretty remarkable.  I have the chance to inspire, motivate, and encourage them to follow their dreams and find something they are extremely passionate about.

Since joining the CCHS team, I have helped at a robotics competition (which I knew very little about), volunteered to judge our school’s talent show, and on a more personal level I have begun working on a project to collect backpacks for Carbondale students who cannot afford them.

I have learned that some things work really well in the classroom and some ideas don’t come to fruition the way I anticipate them to.  I have taken notes and written pointers, hoping to improve projects and activities for next year.  I have gotten to know my students much more, and that’s something I really enjoy.  Beyond the quizzes, handouts, projects, presentations, and work that I do with my class, I hope I leave a small imprint upon their life that inspires them to go out into the world and do something for others – to give back, be kind, and be willing to offer a helping hand to someone else.  I hope I inspire my students in ways that help build their self-esteem and confidence.  More than anything, I want my students to know they can come to me when they need a listening ear.  After all, teachers are not only there to teach their students, but to motivate them, mentor them, and offer positive reinforcement along the way.

I challenge teachers who feel stressed, overwhelmed, and exhausted (which I do!) to remember to channel the reason why you entered the profession to begin with.  You have the power to do so much in your classroom.  While there are benchmarks to make, topics that have to be covered, and work that has to be completed, remember that your students need you.  They need your support, kindness, and help because while you’re pushing papers around and doing work, you are also shaping a person.  We, as educators, have the ability to change a student’s life!

As this second semester wraps up, be sure to consider your role in your students’ lives and in the community.  As a new high school teacher, I feel a bit overwhelmed, at times lost, and sometimes surrounded by structured chaos.  Sometimes adding more stress, more projects, more chaos, or more anything seems impossible, but it is actually always possible. With a wedding in less than a month (that has turned into something far bigger than I wanted or anticipated), the publication of my #ProjectKindnessBook, and planning meaningful lessons, I feel like my life is zigzagging in lots of directions.  Some days I feel defeated, but I keep swimming.

~jj

#ProjectKindnessBook

#AlwaysChooseKindness

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Workout + Brainstorming…

Workout + Brainstorming…

 

I have been preparing multiple activities and sessions for the upcoming school year to teach business classes to high school students.  It is an exciting new program that will be launching in August, and while business and health don’t necessarily seem like they go together let me explain what I mean.  I have found that I often do some of my best brainstorming about activities, innovative thinking, creative projects, and life lessons to incorporate into the classroom during my workout.  Two areas that don’t seem to fit together –business and health–yet I am able to pull them together in such a way that I get inspiration from an unlikely place!  That is why some days my workout actually becomes a brainstorming session!

So much of the time things are very structured, such as when we should do things and how they should be done, but often times life, health, business, etc is unpredictable and may change over time.  (Not that structure is a bad thing, but sometimes you have to move with the pace or flow and adapt based on the scenario.  You may gain knowledge and inspiration based on those changes.) In other words, sometimes sitting down each day after school to make lesson plans, working on lesson plans at home, or continuously using the same materials doesn’t always work or fit the situation.  Instead you may have to use a different approach, such as employing your surroundings to get inspiration throughout the day from things, places, and people, that at times, don’t even seem to connect with the classroom.  The same can be said about working out.  You have to look to different people, places, and things for inspiration and motivation to keep you going.  You have to be willing to vary your workouts, adapt to change (i.e. workout at a hotel, workout in between meetings due to business travel, etc), and find ways to gain meaning from your workout (brainstorming, critical thinking, etc).  Pulling experiences from the day and brainstorming might be ways to capture new workout methods or may take your mind off the task at hand.  You might pull your inspiration from customer service, clinical trails, pilot projects, research analysis, computer development and technology, accounting, and so on.  The list is endless.  Some or all of those experiences may be the topic of your brainstorming ideas during your workout or could provide ideas for new ways to workout.

With that, I say happy brainstorming during your workout!  It will provide inspiration, motivation, and ideas that may improve all facets of your life!

~jj

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