As teachers, we start each new school year with hopes of growing our students’ minds to new experiences, greater wisdom, and a love of learning.
We pray that we will impart great knowledge of science, math, art, music, literacy, fine and gross motor skills, and an ability to follow basic instructions. But, we also pray for a community to unfold. We pray that our students will not only work well together but become a group that encourages, builds up, and truly cares for one another.
At the beginning of each school year, I start my class with the book Have You Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids.
The general concept of the book is that we each carry an invisible bucket that can be filled or emptied by the words and actions of others and that in turn, we can each fill or empty others’ buckets. We use a tangible system whereby we fill a class bucket with warm fuzzy puffs each time a child does something kind to another and when our bucket is full, we earn a class reward such as a pajama day or a dance party.
As you can imagine, the children work so hard to fill the bucket and very quickly begin to point out the kindnesses of others, even if it wasn’t directed to them.
“Miss Jenny, Ollie filled Olivia’s bucket! He helped her clean up the blocks!” “Miss Jenny, Cadence told me I’m a good friend!”
These sentiments begin to come so naturally that we eventually no longer need our bucket, or the subsequent class rewards. Our class becomes a bucket-filling community. (We do still have dance parties, though!)
In the same manner, our students extend their kindness to the other students in our school. They sit quietly with others during library time. They offer a quick apology when they’ve hurt someone. They seek out the lonely friend on the playground. They hug a teacher who’s
having a rough day. They offer smiles to every guest who enters our classroom. They consistently pray for one another at the end of each day.
My students melt hearts. They’re some of the most generous, sweet, kind and thoughtful children I’ve ever taught.
These students who come from a diverse community that includes the wealthy, the impoverished, the black, the white, the Hispanic, the single-parent homes, the homes with two parents, the homes where they visit mom one week and dad the next, and so on...
They’re co-existing in graceful harmony in one tiny little classroom.
We often joke that my classroom is comparable to tiny house living, but yet, there they are – cooperating and filling buckets in a space that defies the odds.
What I want you to know is that we often worry about the future of our children. Let me reassure you that with encouragement, nurturing, solid school and family partnerships, kindness, and plenty of prayer, we are making that difference in the East End. We have built a firm community at Tiny Tykes of sweet little bucket fillers who will no doubt have an immeasurable influence on their world. I know that as we near the end of this school year, we will be sending five of my seven students off to kindergarten and I am positive they will not only be knowledgeable of the school basics, but they will be kind community builders.
I invite you to join us for a bright smile, a hug, or an encouraging word in our tiny little classroom.