#kindnessninjas The October Challenge

IMG_2876Allie Apels and The Kindness Ninjas:

I recently had the amazing Allie Apels of @joysofkinder on my podcast to discuss the transformative power of her brainchild “Kindness Ninjas” Social Emotional Learning (SEL) program in her kindergarten class (#kindnessninjas).

Essentially, a few years ago, when Allie was faced with one of the most challenging groups of children she had ever taught, she and her teaching partner (yes, there were two teachers allocated to one class due to the high level of needs), came up with a brilliant way to encourage the development of a kind and supportive classroom. They introduced a kindness ambassador: the kindness ninja. Every day, leading up to Christmas break, Allie and her class would be greeted by the kindness ninja who would leave them notes and various random acts of kindness missions.

She explained that the experience was completely transformative. The class came together as a team and that year wound up becoming one of Allie’s favourite years as a teacher.

All About Our 15-Day Kindness Ninja Video Challenge Synergy

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Not long after our conversation went live, we got the best idea ever and now…it’s about to go live!

This October, Allie and I are collaborating to bring your classroom an exciting synergy between the 21-Day-Kindness-Challenge and the Kindness Ninjas.

Every day, staring October 7th, 2019, we will be posting on our Instagram accounts 15 school-days worth of kindness ninja challenges to complete with your class. Our little kindness ninja will speak to your children through video using the chatterpix app.

We debated sharing the challenges ahead of time (we love a surprise), and decided to do so in order to give you amazing educators a head-start in your planning. Also, we will be posting the videos eventually to YouTube so that you can follow along on your own timeline at a later time!

How to Participate in the Challenge

  1. Follow us to see the videos! Follow Allie Apels on Instagram @joysofkinder and Morgane Michael @smallactbigimpact. 
  2. Watch the daily videos with your students-comment, tag others to join, use the hashtag #kindnessninjas, and don’t forget to tag us in your comments/photos/examples! We love seeing your journey, too!
  3. Participate in all 15 challenges (tagging us and linking the hashtag, too) and you’ll enter to win a prize at the end of the challenge!
  4. Spread the love and kindness to your school, workplace and community!

HERE’s A DIRECT LINK TO THE YOUTUBE VIDEOS-in FRENCH & ENGLISH 

Step-by-Step Breakdown with Prep Lists

  1. Day one: Create calming jars. Sneak into another classroom and leave the jars on the teacher’s desk for the class to enjoy.
    • Items you’ll need: A tube of clear or glitter glue, container of glitter, food colouring, jar with an airtight seal, Krazy glue to secure the lid. 

  2. Day two: Work together to create a collaborative mural with an encouraging kindness message for your school.
    • Items you might need-large bulletin-board paper, bulletin board letters, paint
    • Here are some examples of ideas that we’ve seen and love: 

  3. Day three: Line up along the hallways and offer smiles and high-fives to students when they come in from recess.ADB9C979-2E53-4B84-9B6A-2637DF7FD14B
  4. Day four: Make Thanksgiving Art for a nearby senior’s centre and deliver it to them before the holiday to make their hearts a little fuller.7531198384_IMG_9043
  5. Day five: Offer to help clean up your school grounds or a particular area of your school. Your custodian will thank you!
    • Items you might need: Picker-upper sticks, gloves, bags
    • Don’t forget to remind your kids about safety! You don’t want anyone picking up dangerous litter and hurting themselves.
  6. Day six: Make kindness pencils by attaching a kind message flag to colourful pencils, then sneak into another class and deposit them on their desks.
    • You’ll need pencils, little paper flags (white labels work, make little flags out of paper, or pay $2 to use this template 

  7. Day seven: Create a giant card for a special staff member in your school to show your gratitude for all that they do.
  8. Day eight: Bring a book from home, wrap it, and gift it to another class. Or, wrap several books and leave them in special places for members of your community to find.mrsmacsbooks
    • Mrs. McIntosh from Alberta, Canada recently did an amazing job wrapping and hiding gently loved books to her community. Check out her blog post about it!
    • What you will need: Gently loved books (one from the class or one from each student), wrapping paper (make, use newsprint, or purchase), notes explaining who it’s for and what it’s for. Check out Mrs. Mac’s example.
  9. Day nine: Write or trace notes of appreciation for the staff members of your school. Place the notes in their mailboxes or on their vehicle windshields.
  10. Day ten: Create a kindness cart to deliver cold beverages and snacks to teachers in your school (or set up the staff room for a special surprise treat day before lunch or recess):kidnesscart
    • What you’ll need: beverages (large containers of iced tea/lemonade/tea/sparkling water and coffee) or individual cans. Also, cookies/crackers and cheese/and homemade treats are always appreciated.
    • Students can make small posters or cards expressing their gratitude for those who serve the school.
  11. Day eleven: Create posters with uplifting and positive messages on them. When everyone is out for recess, tape them up on the mirrors of the bathrooms for all to see. Here is a free set of speech-bubble postersPosters to DecorateColour-in Postersor make your own (here are some quoteideas)! 

  12. Day twelve: Create kindness clothespinswith lovely messages to pin on staff and students within your school.
    • Check out some of thclothespine ideas from happinessishomemade.net about the kindness clothespins.
    • You’ll need paint, modge-podge, and some small-sized printouts of encouraging messages to adapt this project for the classroom.
  13. Day thirteen: Create beautiful kindness bookmarks with encouraging notes on them. Sneak into your school library and hide them in the books. Here is a template from TPTBe Kind TemplateMultiple Message Bookmarks 

  14. Day fourteen: Write special letters to people in your family thanking them for all that they do for you. Use fancy paper and envelopes to make it extra special.
  15. Day fifteen: Make a kindness big-book to gift to another class, to inspire them to be kind within your school. Each person can make a page to tell one way to be a kindness ninja. You could even send it to another school to spread the ripples of kindness throughout your community.

#kindnessninjas #smallactbigimpact #kindsight101

 

 

Leadership Pitfalls: The Recognition Gap

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Good leadership can be easy to spot, but deconstructing it can be so challenging. Over the course of the past year or so, through the interviews I’ve done with truly remarkable world-class educators and leaders, I’ve learned that so much of great leadership comes from trust and the deep, intentional practice of gratitude. Nothing makes you feel smaller than a leader who doesn’t see you. When you feel insignificant, or at least your efforts do, nothing is less motivating. In fact, it’s been proven that an ambivalent leader can be as damaging to his/her employees as an outwardly ineffective leader who puts his/her employees down.

I recently learned about the recognition gap, which applies as much to organizational leaders as bosses and managers, as it does to teachers in the classroom or parents in homes.

It turns out that 80% of supervisors claim that they frequently demonstrate outward appreciation for their subordinates, while only 20% of employees report that their supervisors express appreciation more than occasionally.

So, knowing that there is a gap in perception, it’s important that leaders, teachers, and parents find meaningful ways to see and appreciate the people they serve so that these individuals feel motivated, valued, and believe that their work matters.

Here are a handful of easy ways to do this at work:

-Start a Shout-Out Board to encourage employees to recognize one another’s efforts.

-Every day, focus on one employee or student and celebrate something about them in person or in writing.

-When someone goes above and beyond for the organization (picture that student who volunteers to stack chairs at the end of the day, your child who cleans her room without prompting, or the employee who contributes meaningfully at a faculty meeting), go out of your way to show them you see and appreciate their efforts.

-Call someone and tell them specifically what they mean to you.

-Write a quick post-it for 3-5 staff members or students every day specifically thanking them for the way they contribute to the climate in your class or school.

These little things don’t seem like a huge effort on your part, but they sure go a long way in building trust, rapport, and positive morale.

My Visit to St. Michaels University School

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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.

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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)…

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“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.

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A Visit with Santa and a Generous Invitation

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It was 9:16 am, Frank Sinatra’s Christmas album was playing in the background, and both of my children, smiling faces illuminated by the late November morning sun, were bundled and strapped in the back of our vehicle as we cruised down the highway on our way to beat the crowds and meet Santa. My husband was out of town, so I had devised an itinerary jam-packed with fun-filled kid-friendly activities to get us in the holiday spirit and fight off cabin fever. Baking, crafts, checking-out Christmas book titles from the library, visits with friends, kicking back with classic family movies, and photos with Santa…it was going to be fun.

This is likely the first and only year I have ever embraced the “magic of Christmas” and all of its commercial baggage so darn early. But, considering last year’s Christmastime debacle and dashed dreams as a result of my unexpected vertigo symptoms, one can’t really blame my earnest and eager efforts to squeeze every last ounce out of the impending holiday season!

That morning, I had prepared and mentally geared-up for the usual Outfit-Resistance Routine, only to be pleasantly surprised when my 3.5 year-old-daughter not only agreed to wear the reindeer sweater I had laid out for her, but excitedly reached for it and exclaimed how much she loved it! Nonchalantly, I had slowly backed away, dressed her brother in his companion reindeer sweater, and ushered them both into the vehicle, barely saying a word so as not to draw her attention to my complete shock in case she changed her ever-loving mind.

We finally pulled into the already bustling Mayfair Mall parking lot and quickly found a spot. It turns out “beat the lines” was everyone’s mantra that morning. The mall had barely opened its doors and already streams of coordinated children, dressed in green, red, metallics, and stark whites, poured into the building, eyes gleaming with excitement, little hands tugging and urging their parents along. You could see some children jockeying to be the first ones in the doors, some of them literally pushing past families to do so. My heart skipped a beat. Maybe this was a mistake. I paused, gazed at the scene, and deeply inhaled the fresh, crisp air. Then, I turned to haul the double-stroller out of my trunk, a must-have fall-back when you have two small children under three-and-a-half years of age.

We reached the entrance of the mall and bee-lined for Santa. I immediately became aware of two little girls, sisters around 10 years of age, flanking either side of my stroller. They were dressed in the most stunning coordinated red and green plaid dresses, golden ballet flats, and white knit capped-sleeve sweaters. I realized quickly that these girls meant business. Their straight brown hair swung from side to side as they pumped their elbows to propel themselves past the stroller as Santa’s workshop came into view. I resisted the childish urge to pick up my pace. However, I couldn’t counteract the sinking feeling that ensued as we rounded the corner and spotted the snaking line-up, 20 people deep. Santa wouldn’t arrive for another 20 minutes. Again, I thought of the memories, sighed, and resigned myself to whatever misery would meet us in that line-up. We joined in, coming in second behind the coordinated sisters.

I should mention, before I had children, I made grandiose declarations about the “kind of parent” I would be. Technology, unhealthy treats, unnecessary negotiations, and kid-centric food would NOT be employed in our house. As a new teacher, I would sometimes find myself lamenting a romanticised historical time when children demonstrated the fine art of waiting patiently with little more than a verbal reminder. Cue the enormous eye-roll. How ignorant was I to the perils and unrelenting marathon that is parenting!?

Fast-forward to the present, I am humbled by the experience of motherhood. It has been an incredibly beautiful, challenging journey. Parenting my children has been the most humanizing, reflective experience in my life. In many ways, entering the world of parenthood has forced me to evaluate the, sometimes, unrealistic expectations I have not only of myself, but of my children.

So, I forgive my imperfections.

I employ the use of occasional unhealthy treats.

Sometimes, I make empty threats.

I use my best negotiation tactics on an almost-daily basis.

Most days, our meals consist of a predictable rotation of kid-centric food.

And technology makes appearances at least once-a-day.

And, in that Santa line-up…I used every last trick in my arsenal.

I had to laugh at the irony, as my son was back-arching, I was plying both children with “special treats” usually only reserved for the potty, and my daughter was plugged into Charlie Brown Christmas (I know, I’m pretty sure it’s single-handedly responsible for teaching preschoolers the word “stupid”), I made eye-contact with a past parent and student I had taught.

Oh…terrific.

There’s something sort of acceptable about feeling like a gong-show parenting failure in public when you feel anonymous, but the overwhelm reaches a whole new level when you actually know those around you, professionally. I smiled apologetically. She and her daughter gave a big friendly wave in our direction.

Forty minutes later, my parent-teacher ego a little bruised, we eventually arrived. We were second in line and could finally spot the big man, himself, between the photo set’s enormous sparkling trees. My daughter was star-struck, a smile spread across her face as she and her brother peered through the branches.

In that moment, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around. The two sisters stood in front of us smiling and invited us to go in front of them. I’m not sure if it was guilt for having beat us in the race to greet Santa, outright pity, or the giving spirit, but I appreciated the genuinely thoughtful gesture, nonetheless. Instinctively, I started to refuse, but remembered how magnificent it feels when someone graciously accepts your kindness. Their generosity made a big impact on me. It allowed me to practice the art of receiving. It also reminded me to search for ways to make those around me feel supported by and connected to humanity, especially throughout the busyness and chaos of the holidays.

Genuinely, I thanked the girls and their parents, and watched as my children greeted Santa, my son tentatively and reluctantly, my daughter enthusiastically.

It had been worth it, after all.