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Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Have You Filled a Bucket Today With a Random Act of Kindness?

By Peter DeWitt — December 28, 2012 4 min read
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Unfortunately, it sometimes takes a tragedy to get people to step back and reflect on life. It shouldn’t but it does. Many people try to learn something from even the most horrific of events. The Sandy Hook tragedy is one such event that people are trying to learn from. Some choose to fight about gun control and others are looking to television, video games and music. There is another group who are looking at how to create a little peace and happiness during a very sad time.

Moments like Sandy Hook make us feel unsafe. They make us feel as though the world is spiraling in a negative direction. When is enough...enough? How can we get people to remember the loss at the same time we try to change the course of the way the world seems to be going? This is a time when people revert back to The Beatles and “All You Need is Love.

You probably have all seen the commercials with Ann Curry. She asks us to join the movement to do one act of kindness for each child and adult lost in the Sandy Hook tragedy. If you are on social media such as Twitter or Facebook you have most likely read about some of the acts your friends and followers are performing. Ann Curry is retweeting some of them on her Twitter page.

The hope through all of this sadness is that we can change the direction our world seems to be going in. According to KidsHealth and the Federal Communications Commission, “The average American child will witness 200,000 violent acts on television by age 18.” This is a staggering number of violent acts. Unfortunately, there were not any statistics on how many random acts of kindness our students will see but the optimist in me thinks that even the smallest amount can out shadow the violence they see.

Although it’s important that we all participate in #26 Acts of Kindness, what can schools do to promote this kind of thinking after the 26 random acts are all completed? How can schools promote acts of kindness that are less random? The Bucket Filler Program is one way to get kids, and adults, to do kind things for one another. That should be what school and life are about. We all need to do kind things for one another because we are surrounded by too much hate.

Have You Filled a Bucket Today?
It sounds like a strange question, especially if you’re not enveloped in the world of elementary education. Are you a bucket filler? Or, are you a bucket dipper? In this time of sadness the Bucket Filling Program is a way to promote kindness in schools. In addition, in a year of increased mandates, accountability and zero tolerance policies, bucket filling is a proactive way to set a positive climate in schools, and it’s a fairly simple process.

Every year, teachers and administrators from around the country begin their school year by reading Have You Filled a Bucket Today by Carol McCloud and David Messing or one of the other books in the Bucket Filling program. One book can really help set the tone for the school year. However, educators understand that the only way to further the message and create a positive climate is to make sure that everyone is following through in the classroom, in the lunchroom and out at recess.

Some of the ways educators can follow through is by doing the following:
• Use the same language

• "You just filled my bucket!" • "Was that bucket filling or bucket dipping?

• Communicate about the program to parents
• Parents may even use it at home.

• Create a bulletin board in the classroom or school
• Invite the Bucket Fillers to present

Through the program students learn that they all have a bucket. Their bucket may be filled if they are surrounded by supportive adults and peers. Unfortunately, their bucket may be empty if they lack that support. Those students and adults who have empty buckets are at risk of being bucket dippers. A bucket dipper is someone who does not say kind things to others. However, with a little help bucket dippers can learn how to fill other’s buckets which will help fill their own.

I realize that all of this may sound a little silly but the Bucket Filler Program is a proactive way to focus on being kind in schools. With so much bullying in the news, this is a way to focus on the positive things that happen in schools. Schools will always need to have reactive measures such as board policies and codes of conduct, but it’s nice to be able to focus on the positive as well. The purpose is to create good citizens and promote citizenship.

In the End
A University of British Columbia study "has found that children who perform small acts of kindness tend to boost their own happiness, and that may help counteract bullying.” Of course, many of us do not need a university study to tell us that acts of kindness will make us feel better but putting it in the spotlight can only help further the cause.

We are surrounded by violence and reality television that seems to promote bad boy behavior. It almost feels as though being mean to one another and talking behind someone’s back is the cool thing to do. It’s time to change that. 26 Acts of Kindness and using programs like the Bucket Filler Programs are just a few ways to we can begin to focus on the positive, and perhaps, we can chip away at the negative...one random act of kindness at a time.


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The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


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