“Do you know the picture book, Miss Rumphius?” I asked and my current art teacher smiled and began to recite the mantra. “I will travel… live by the sea and…do something to make the world more beautiful.”
My eyes welled recalling another art teacher and best friend who loved this book, too. We worked together for many years at a small school. And when I left to teach in another district, she came the week before school started and kindly helped me decorate my bulletin boards. And then she volunteered to come in and read my class Miss Rumphus and helped each to paint their own lupine. That was the fall of 2001. Two months later, she was riding a horse, fell off and died. And now, fifteen years later, I am thinking of her so much.
Because Friday I was able to plan for two hours for our second quarter. And when I returned to my students, again I received reports about my students being unkind. I realized that I need more than just a great plan for teaching math standard 3.4. I need to explicitly teach kindness first. Without a kind environment, no real learning can occur.
So Saturday morning I headed to the library with a list of books I saw on twitter. 24 Great Books that Show Empathy and Kindness.
I decided I’d start with Each Kindness by Jaqueline Woodson Maybe even get a bowl and give each student a pebble and make a big deal about the choices we make – good or bad – and how they ripple out and we can never take it back. We need to choose our actions wisely and choose kindness.
As I walked the stacks in the public library, I remembered Miss Rumphius and my friend. Each year since her passing, I have hung my lupine in my classroom wanting her memory to live with me. When I think of kindness, it is her I think of most. She truly was the kindest person I have ever met.
So on Monday, prepping for my second kindness lesson after Each Kindness, I went to see if my current art teacher knew the story and would help us paint lupines. My eyes welled, missing my friend but realizing her memory lives on in the others who now are in my life. And with a plan, we WILL teach this next generation to be kind.
**If you don’t know Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney, listen to it here.
If you have any more tips for teaching kindness, please share! I know I will need more than just 2. I know it will be a year-long focus!