Tag: kindness

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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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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Change the life of cancer patients!

Change the life of cancer patients!

It may seem expensive, unrealistic, or even hard to change the life of others without having lots of disposable income.  It’s true that some things cost money when it comes to giving back.  Buying cookies and sweets for the local police and fire departments costs money, buying surprise cards or gifts for strangers costs a little money (though, not much), but some things cost nothing.  Writing a note to a veteran and placing it on their windshield, complimenting a stranger, answering questions for those that are lost, or donating hair to help cancer patients doesn’t really cost anything.

I traded places with a woman in the post office recently who was running late to babysit.  It didn’t cost me anything but a few minutes of time and it brightened her day more than you might have imagined.  A week or so later there was a couple in a metered parking lot who were getting ready to put change in the meter, but couldn’t figure out how much, but I yelled across the lot and said you don’t have to pay on Sundays.  They were grateful for the response and it was a simple gesture for me to save them the time and money.

This past week I did one more thing that I hold particularly close to my heart.  I donated 9 inches of hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths.  This makes 39 total inches donated so far to help change the lives of total strangers who are battling cancer.  Who wouldn’t want to change the life of a cancer patient if they could?  It’s simple yet means the world to someone else.  I have watched several women I know battle cancer, making it a particular cause that’s important to me.  A cause my grandpa would be equally proud of as he watches from heaven, looking down and asking me, “Did you use Pantene Pro-V?” as he used to do as he admired my shiny, black hair.

I hope these short stories inspire you to make a difference, big or small, in your community, city, and in the world around you.  Go change the life of someone else, specifically a stranger in need of care, support, and kindness.  After all, it’s often strangers that are often facing more battles than we often even realize.

~jj

#ProjectKindnessBook

#AlwaysChooseKindness

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The #1 NYE Resolution!

The #1 NYE Resolution!

There are lots of resolutions to be made and goals to be set as we head into another New Years Eve.  As you add a new diet to your list, new health and nutrition goals, weight loss, less sugar, and the countless other resolutions, I hope kindness is at the very top for each and every person.  It’s what keeps the world going!  It will give you more purpose, meaning, and happiness than any other goal on your list.  I promise you this, and my book, Giving Back: Lessons from an adopted immigrant on why a happy life is about helping others will affirm why this is true.

As I wrap up 2017, I am thankful for the trip to the nation’s capitol that my husband and I just embarked on.  While there, I was reminded once again why I find travel to be so therapeutic.  The melting pot of people and cultures was lovely, but more than that, the ability to provide guidance and help to them was at the heart of the trip.  My husband and I gave directions to several in DC (while we were ‘tourists’ ourselves it never fails that we get asked how to get somewhere, even when we were in Ireland!).  We also helped someone off the ground who fell at one of the monuments.  What was even sweeter is when my husband said, “I did the same thing earlier today” to make the young twenty-something feel better.

Lastly, as we traveled home we got behind a very slow person in the security line at the airport.  It was a mother with a young child who didn’t put her stuff through the scanner.  The security personnel instructed her to do so and we continued on our way.  Later, I ended up sitting next to her on the plane.  The little girl she had was absolutely a doll.  I lipped to her “Hi” and in the most bubbly little voice she said “Hi” back.  While the mother was between us, the little girl liked to observe me discreetly.  I eventually lended a hand to the mother who was giving the little girl her lunch by throwing her trash away and providing extra napkins for a small spill that occurred.  After all, it can be overwhelming and stressful when you are traveling alone with a small child.  She said back to me, “Thank you so much.”  It wasn’t more than a minute or two later when she looked at me again and said, “That was so kind of you” (after throwing her trash away).  These are the resolutions I hope we are all making for 2018 – to be kind to one another, help one another, and give back to those around us.  Cheers to much happiness and good health next year and LOTS OF KINDNESS!

While Christmas, New Year’s, and the holidays will soon be over until next year, kindness and giving back throughout the year should be resolutions for all.

~jj

#ProjectKindnessBook

#AlwaysChooseKindness

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An open letter about kindness!

An open letter about kindness!

I just celebrated my 30th birthday a little over a month ago.  It’s always an exciting time to celebrate my birthday, not because I get gifts or eat my favorite local pizza, but because it starts a new year of random acts of kindness.  It’s a new year of pledging to do a minimum of 30 different surprises of giving back, helping others, and spreading more kindness out into the world.  The world has enough craziness, chaos, and uncertainty in it that every little bit of kindness helps.

My ultimate dream through my random acts of kindness is to be the person on Ellen that gets to surprise a deserving family or person of something extraordinary that will change their life – notifying someone they will be able to provide presents for their kids on Christmas, a new car that allows them to get to work safely, helping a college student pay for tuition who may not otherwise have the opportunity, supporting a food drive or coat drive, etc.  My favorite acts of kindness are the random ones to strangers and people I barely know.

So, one day I hope to be that person that can spend an entire day(s) or hour(s) surprising others with things that will change their life.  After all, when you spread kindness and give back you are changing the world one good deed at a time.  Keep that in mind today and every day, not just around the holiday season, on #GivingTuesday, #SmallBusinessSaturday, or during Thanksgiving and Christmas.

And, remember to join me on the #ProjectKindnessBook pledge and follow my Project Kindness by using your birthday as the minimum number of times you give back, help others, and spread kindness throughout the year. Use #ProjectKindnessBook in your post to show you have made the commitment to making a difference in the lives of others and changing the world around you.

Simple and easy ideas include leaving a note for a veteran, baking cookies for your local police or fire department, reaching out and thanking your child’s teacher, leaving a large tip for a server, buying someone’s coffee or meal, and donating food and coats throughout the year.  My high school students created cards for veterans, the elderly, and sick children this week to celebrate others.  This small project helps the students see how their gesture can change the life of someone else.  Keep spreading cheer and kindness…it’s the best gift you can give during the holiday season and every day throughout the year!

~jj

#ProjectKindnessBook

#AlwaysChooseKindness

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The mountains we call life!

The mountains we call life!

As if we haven’t heard it a thousand times that life is full of highs and lows and twists and turns.  It’s something our parents tell us, our teachers told us, and something you can hear and witness every single day.  Sometimes life seems glamorous when we are young (and, it certainly is at times and most definitely more times than not!), but it isn’t always glamorous.  And, it is important to teach your children this, your students this, and all the people around you this.  It makes that fall to the ground a little bit less painful in the end.

I am a new teacher surrounded by many veterans, but we all have bad days, the ones who are new and the ones that have tons of experience.  I was recently evaluated and the class didn’t really go as planned, not at all, not even a little bit.  It was stressful, chaotic, and more than anything it felt like a bit of a failure.  That day was you guessed it…a mountain.  But then again, in life, almost every single day is going to present you with a mountain (or hill) of some kind.  It’s the reality and we must come to accept that when we plan things out in our head and they go in a complete different direction we recognize it is as a learning experience and not a failure.  Now, not all people will lead you to believe this – you may not have friends, family, bosses, supervisors, leaders, or people that believe that a loss of profit, a bad decision, or a poor evaluation is a learning experience, but it is.

My evaluation did turn into a learning experience and a lesson to stick in my pocket.  It’s one I can carry with me.  That evaluation will make me a better person even if I would like to forget about it.  This leads to the last part.  I work with a wide range of students.  Some that have family and a great home and others that aren’t sure where they will sleep that night.  Students that eat out often and others that aren’t sure when their next meal will come.  It came at just the perfect time.  Less than 24 hours later I received a note about the impact I was having on several students.

What’s the point of sharing these highs and lows?  Because it’s life.  You can translate this to your own life, job, relationships, and chaos.  Life is full of moments where you feel like you have reached the peak of the mountain and feel like you have met success, but you will also find challenges and frustrations right around the corner.

~jj

#ProjectKindnessBook

#AlwaysChooseKindness

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Is it possible to add more to your plate?

Is it possible to add more to your plate?

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There’s so much to be said about making it to the other end of the tunnel at the end of the year, at least most teachers can relate to this!  I loved every minute of being back at my old high school as a teacher.  It was a new challenge, a new learning experience, and more than that a new way to give back to my community and the people in it.  I must say not only did I survive happily through the exhaustion, chaos, and craziness of the school year, but I managed to do a few side projects as well.  After all, life is supposed to by crazy busy, right?!

I finished my #ProjectKindnessBook which is titled Giving Back: Lessons from an adopted immigrant on why a happy life is about helping others, eloped to Ireland, and coordinated a backpack drive in my local community to help students in need.  I was so excited to have lots of my own projects to do this summer including sort pictures, which has been on my ‘to do’ list for ages.  And, then I was asked to serve as the community member for the SIU Carbondale Homecoming Committee which is where I do a lot of my volunteer work aside from other misc. volunteer projects I get myself roped up in!  I pondered it for the night, curiously cautious about whether I wanted to give more free time.  A lot of it over summer.  I thought to myself how the heck can I be signing up to give my time to another project?  It’s summer and I need to catch up on MY life. And then, I realized just how extremely selfish that is and was to think.  I have so much more than the average person and the ability and control to always add more too my plate if I prioritize my projects correctly and use my time wisely.  And, you have that same exact power!  You can add more to your plate than you probably ever thought or realized.  You can seek projects to get involved, find ways to give back by fulfilling disparities within your community, and realizing that life is bigger than you and your life, but about what you can do for others.  At the moment, I felt like I needed some rest and relaxation after being a full-time beginning teacher, being newly married, writing a book, and then I remembered that my rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation in life comes from giving back and doing things for others in my ‘spare’ time.  I use spare time loosely because I don’t seem to allow too much of that in my life.  (Though, don’t let me deceive you, I plan on having a few fun days this summer with family and friends, enjoying the local wineries, and spending time with my husband – who usually helps along with the crazy projects I commit to and doesn’t get annoyed by all the extra time I spend doing things for others.)

The moral of the story isn’t that I make myself do good things or make myself give back or make myself have a passion for my community.  It isn’t that I am this phenomenal person who is selfless.  It’s just that giving back has become second nature to me in life.  I have gotten so used to it being part of my life and who I am.  It’s become my passion.  I challenge you to join me with your pictures of giving back.  Use these when you tag your pictures: #BeKind, #GiveBack, #HelpOthers, and #ProjectKindnessBook.

~jj

#ProjectKindnessBook

#AlwaysChooseKindness

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Diversity can change the world!

Diversity can change the world!

If you know me, you know I love diversity.   The first time I remember heavily considering and thinking about diversity is in 8th grade when I begged my mom to move high schools so I could be in a more diverse district filled with lots of ethnicities and different cultural experiences.

I love diversity because I love what it brings to my life, and more than anything I love what it teaches me.  Similarly, I remember as we headed to Ireland to elope that I recall how noticeable the diversity was in London and Dublin.  From the waiters and staff that helped with our wedding to the many people that we met, the vacation was filled with Muslims, Indians, Americans, Romanians, and many others.

These experiences have further reminded me how much I appreciate and love to be immersed in projects and opportunities that expose me to people and students with different opportunities, educational backgrounds, religions, ethnicities, and experiences.

I hope others are able to learn and appreciate those they are surrounded by and the communities in which they live.  It is so easy to judge those who are different, but I personally prefer to learn from them, and I hope you do, too!  We can learn why they do things the way they do, why they wear the clothing they do, what their religion means to them, how their journey brought them to where they are now, and so on.

Back to the whole high school story which is what set me on my path of wondering about diversity.  We eventually moved and I loved my new high school that had so much more diversity, my alma mater, and where I now have the privilege of working.  I once again was lucky enough to witness the diversity at prom.  I realized how lucky I am to be in a place that offers so much diversity and experiences for me to grow.

It is so easy to judge those that are diverse or different than us, but I hope at some point we learn to embrace them because of the many great things they can teach us.  I challenge you to think about this next time you are helping someone from a different culture, someone that isn’t like you, or someone that may be far different than you are used to.  All the diversity we see and have among us is what brings people together to invent new things, find new cures, expand community projects, teach our students, and ultimately to change the world!

~jj

#ProjectKindnessBook

#AlwaysChooseKindness

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