Tag: students

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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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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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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Backpacks: Here, There, & Everywhere!

Backpacks: Here, There, & Everywhere!

It’s February!  For most, that means more winter weather (and maybe some snow!), hearts, pink and red, Valentine’s Day, heart health awareness month (Go Red) and all the other stuff in between.  For me, it means backpacks, and lots of them, at school, at my house, at community dropboxes…basically, here, there, and everywhere!  This is because February is the month I partner with Circle K of SIU and coordinate a backpack drive for my school and the local Boys and Girls Club.  I collect gently used and new backpacks to provide for students that cannot afford them.

Circle K is a branch of Kiwanis International which is under the same umbrella as Key Club, a club that is often a student organization in high schools, including the one I teach at.  I remember being an active Key Club member in high school.  I loved the community projects Key Club helped with and the volunteer work that came along with it.  This is why I feel especially happy to partner with this Registered Student Organization (RSO) at my local university.

Here’s a chance for you to declutter your house and free up some space: Donate any new or gently used backpacks, duffle bags, and totes to my Backpacks for Success project.  You can find locations at the SIU Student Services Building, SIU Morris Library, SIU Student Center, and the Neighborhood Co-Op.

With your help and the support of many others I have been able to see firsthand what a difference these backpacks make in the lives of students.  Many of them have heavy books to carry and cannot afford the expense that comes along with buying a backpack, plus it’s something their family is unable to fulfill for them.  This is why it is my hope to help provide to those that need backpacks so that they have the basic necessities to be successful in school.  It touches my heart to see so many who are willing to change the lives of students and the world’s future generations by donating a backpack.  With each backpack, we are changing a life, and with that change we are making it possible for a child to feel more prepared and successful in their school environment.  Thanks to all who donate – please spread the love by sharing this post!

~jj

#ProjectKindnessBook

#AlwaysChooseKindness

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Curriculum that comes to life!

Curriculum that comes to life!

It can be a lot of work to be a teacher that truly takes the time to create ‘fun’ curriculum which to me (as a teacher) actually means meaningful curriculum that makes the topics and concepts come to life.  Books have tons and tons of definitions, topics, and concepts, but they aren’t always exciting and thrilling.  They don’t always make learning fun and often times as teachers we recognize that making learning fun is actually a lot more work.  After all, students often want things that are interactive and hands-on, but what they don’t realize is that the ‘fun’ things that teachers plan require a lot of organizing, coordinating, and most of all time.  Remember that this is the type of curriculum that helps the students retain important information, but also provides life lessons.

This past week I have done quite a bit of self-reflection on my activities and lessons in hopes of becoming a better teacher and improving my projects for future classes.  I recently planned my annual ‘Cutthroat Food Truck’ project where there is auctioning and chaos within the classroom.  It’s during my Supply & Demand Unit which makes it really fun.  There’s a shortage of ink in the marketplace so there is no printing allowed, there is an unlimited supply of white computer paper available because there is a major supplier producing it, markers are readily available and not in short supply, but due to the demand of scissors, glue, tape, and colored paper there is a limited number of premium resources available and the groups must bid to obtain these wants.  It’s quite entertaining because I do most of the auctioning while students are creating their food cart which adds an extra layer to the project.  Students must pay attention to items that are up for bid as they create and brainstorm on their food truck.  They get a set amount of ‘money’ (yes, it’s fake!) to use toward bidding on items.  They must consider whether they will bid each other up for items, trade-off items, or how they will strategize to create a cool and fun food truck.

It is quite exhausting to coordinate, organize, and implement (and a bit costly because I bring in patterned decorative tape and paper, special stickers, etc), but it turns out to be a cool project that teaches supply, demand, wants, needs, scarcity, and limited and unlimited resources.  What is most important about this project is that it brings these complex, boring economic concepts (okay, let’s be honest I am a Financial Economics major so it hurt to have to type ‘boring’ to describe those concepts, but for most students it is the reality) to LIFE!  It gives meaning and excitement to these students.

This also helps bring your students that have different learning styles and levels to an area that connects with real life.  Nearly all students can relate to some of the concepts and it puts money in their hands!  They have to figure out how to spend it efficiently or else they learn a lesson on how not to spend money (which can be equally as important)!  My point is that if you bring your lessons to life you will find so much more success in your classroom.  I will guarantee that!

This one is for my fellow teachers, economic lovers (me!), and all those that strive to make a difference in every single student’s life.

~jj

#ProjectKindnessBook

#AlwaysChooseKindness

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What is SUCCESS?

What is SUCCESS?

I had to laugh at myself when I typed success because I started teaching in the middle of the year (January) so I shuffled to get my classroom, lessons, and several activities ready over the two week Christmas break.  It was a lot of work to clean out someone’s classroom (who had left a lot behind) and find a way to decorate and organize it so I was ready to teach.  I wanted it to be a very inviting and comfortable atmosphere for my students.  As I completed my bulletin board one evening over break, I got the entire thing laminated, cut out, and put up when I realized I had forgotten a ‘c’ in success.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  I was overwhelmed with annoyance at how I had misspelled ‘success’ after being in a hurry.

Fast forward a few months and I was talking to my husband who had the question, “What is success?” asked during an interview.  I thought about it for a few moments before saying, “Making other people see the value of making the world a kinder and happier place for all.”  A bit vague, yes, and probably not what most think of when they define success, but it could mean volunteering during the busy times before schools and universities begin or giving directions and a friendly smile to someone new on campus or at school.  After all, there are a lot of new people in unfamiliar places that may need help, have questions, ask you for directions, and feel nervous and stressed about the new chapter they are beginning.

With the beginning of many new chapters for those around us, it is a great thing to consider success in this way of light.  We have lots of first-time college students, middle school/junior high students headed to high schools, young children starting school, and lots of people who are embarking on new adventures and journeys whether it be new jobs, traveling to new places, or struggling with a new diagnosis or unforeseen challenge (for some of us, it may be the unknown of a little thing called the Solar Eclipse 😉 ).  If when we see new faces at school, at work, in passing, or in our community, people took the opportunity to be welcoming and helpful it would help my ‘definition of success’ expand as more people would be helping each other.  Give directions to a stranger, smile and say hi to put a person at ease, provide exceptional service, let someone know you are happy to help if they need it, etc.  This time of year is often very stressful for many of us and we can become extremely focused on our own hectic and chaotic schedules that we may forget to help those around us.  I challenge you to help others this month as they embark on new adventures (and new challenges) so that together we create a kinder and happier world for all.

~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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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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