It was a scorching hot day as I pulled up to the front of the gorgeous brick building and emerged from my car, weighed down by bulky bags of art supplies and all of the equipment necessary for my impending presentation on kindness.
Greeted by the warm and friendly staff, I was directed to the spacious auditorium where over 160 school-aged ELL students from St.Michaels University School’s ISPY program would soon fill the seats.
“I should mention,” one of the staff members announced apologetically, “they’ve mistakenly been told by their houseparents that they are set to go to the museum this afternoon. There’s been a schedule mix-up. I have to warn you, some of the kids are disappointed to be stuck on campus for a presentation.”
Uh oh. My heart sank a little.
This was not the most ideal situation in which to greet a rather large bunch of middle-schoolers, let alone speak to them about kindness.
I have to admit, I started getting nervous.
I took a deep breath, “Ok. No problem. We’ll make it work!”
Within minutes, kids began filing into the room. Some of them entered silently and sleepily. Others jostled one another, still riding high from the endorphins after a lively game of lunchtime basketball.
I began my presentation, pleasantly surprised at how quickly they gave me the floor. Suddenly, due to a technical glitch, the video I wanted to play was inaudible and wouldn’t play properly (despite several soundchecks)…
“Uh oh, I’ve lost them!” I thought, maintaining the illusion of calm on the outside while ripples of panic lapped at my mind.
I explained that sometimes life hands us challenging situations to test out ability to overcome them. I thanked them for their patience, then completed my presentation (with the technical support of a few friendly teachers nearby).
The thing is, these kids, many of whom had been disappointed initially at the prospect of staying on campus extended me the most generous, warm reception at the end of the talk. They demonstrated their compassion and allowed me to feel comfortable within their presence, in spite of the glitches.
Throughout the rest of the afternoon, these students, from China, Korea, Russia, Mexico, Japan, Iran, and Taiwan, cycled through break-out sessions where they learned about mindfulness (from the amazing Lisa Baylis from Awaken the Well-Being of Educators), calming strategies, yoga, and kindness.
In my session, we created Kindness Rocks (lesson linked) and practiced English language skills through writing encouraging notes for friends, teachers, and family members together.
About a week later, I received a letter from St.Michaels University School. When I opened it, my heart just about burst open. Within the envelope were a number of letters, cards, notes, and even a hand-drawn portrait expressing thanks.
What touched my heart the most was that some of the students articulated their initial disappointment about having to sit in lecture hall, then noted that they came away from the presentation with a changed perspective about kindness and happiness.
I love to see children realize that their kind acts enable people to feel valued and seen, that their generosity can contribute to a happier world, and that their influence within their learning community matters.
A big thank you St. Michaels University School and my friend Allison for having me in! It was truly an honour.