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As her students lined up at the door, Lydia Rush stopped the children and called for their attention. One of her first graders was fighting back tears. This isn’t a meltdown in the making. It’s how a simple act of kindness warmed a young child’s heart.
It’s not uncommon to see kids in Miss Rush’s first grade classroom at Verda James Elementary passing notes. In fact, she even encourages it. These notes are purposeful. They contain little pick-me-up’s or words of appreciation for their classmates.
“You are nice to other people.”
“You are funny.”
“You let me play with you all the time.”
“I like your shirt.”
And the five words that brought the sting of tears to that young boys’ eyes: “You are my best friend.”
Once or twice a week, Miss Rush uses part of the school day for a writing exercise to reinforce essential writing skills but also to instill character building. The exercise is based on the book “How Full is Your Bucket? For Kids” by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer.
“You visualize that each person has a bucket. When they feel accepted, get a compliment, a hug, someone stops to help tie your shoe, helps carry your things, etc. it puts a drop in their bucket,” explains Miss Rush. “If someone yells at you, excludes you, makes fun of you, it takes a drop out of your bucket.”
Miss Rush introduced the concept toward the beginning of the school year by reading the Rath/Reckmeyer book to her class and through daily note writing. She encouraged the children to write “bucket fillers” to anyone who may have added a drop to their buckets – classmates, siblings, parents, teachers. She keeps the concept alive throughout the year by designating one student as the “bucket filler” for the day. This person is at the door in the morning to fill buckets as his or her peers arrive for class. It can include a fist pound, a high five, a smile, or a joke. Anything that would start the day on a positive note.
“The positive recognition has been amazing for their self-esteem, team building, friendships, and overall attitudes toward each other. They are more receptive to how each other are feeling and tend to be more caring,” said Miss Rush.
The students become more aware of how they treat each other. They “care about each other on an emotional level, which helps eliminate acts of bullying because they realize how it negatively affects the other person.” It helps foster empathy and kindness not only in school but at home and other life situations as well. Lydia has even sent home a template for bucket fillers for students to use within their own families. She says this is a great activity to reinforce at home.
“When your child does something helpful or kind, you can mention how it put a drop in your bucket. In the same way, parents can discuss how negative behaviors ‘bucket dip’ or take drops out. You can ask about their bucket, and why it is empty and how you can fill it. You can also have sticky notes at home for bucket filling.”
These six and seven year olds are learning that even small drops can make a great impact.
©Natrona County School District