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Posts Tagged ‘kindness

Creating Conspiracies of Kindness

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conspiracies of kindness

A simple truth – kids will tend to do those things for which they are rewarded – both extrinsically and intrinsically . . . and another truth – schools reward individual achievement.  Most schools award individual achievements. Kids mostly work on individual school assignments and get individual graded for those assignments.  In essence, school is a culture that promotes the rise and success of the individual.  Sure, group work and collaboration does occur but when it comes down to assessment and grading, it is most often on the individual level.

Another truth – giving to others, for most of us, is wired into our DNA.  What I mean by this is that many of us receive extreme states of joy and satisfaction by giving or even viewing acts of kindness.  I’ve tried to figure out the whys of this but have fail to identify the why.  In thinking about personal need fulfillment and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I cannot figure out which human needs are being fulfilled.  All I can say is that it just feels really, really good. Watch the following videos for some evidence of this:

The following video is what sparked this post.  The reactions and joys of the givers are just as priceless as the receiver:

Sadly, some kids (some adults) just never have experienced the act of giving and kindness nor the rewards it brings.  As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, school environments and often society-at-large do not promote nor reward, in a significant way, acts of kindness.  So for some kids, experiencing being part of a conspiracy of kindness may act as visceral, innately rewarding experience and become the impetus of future acts.  One of the most powerful statements of the Michigan Middle School Football Team’s Life Changing Play came from one of the middle school kids:

I kind of went from being somebody who mostly cared about myself and my friends to caring about everyone and trying to make everyone’s day and everyone’s life.

I propose that educators and administrators introduce the idea of creating conspiracies of kindness initiated and carried out by the students themselves.  These wouldn’t be for a school assignment or grade.  They would just be promoted as a way to give back to their communities, that doing good for others . . . just feels good.  The ultimate goal would be that the students become involved in and develop a culture that promotes conspiracies of kindness just for the innate and intrinsic rewards; and this would carry over into a lifetime of increased giving, of kindness.

Resources and Stories to Help Motivate Students to Create Conspiracies of Kindness:

Photo Credit:

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

April 2, 2014 at 8:36 pm

Best Education-Related Videos of 2013

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I love end of year “best of” lists.  My own list is what I found to be the most powerful education related videos of 2013. They all, in some way, address the mind, heart, and spirit of education.  Each touched me in some way to help illuminate the purpose and core of education.  They are in no particular order expect for the first one which is my number one choice and one that I believe all educators should be required to watch.

Rita Pierson: Every kid needs a champion

Favorite Quote:

Every child deserves a champion – an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.

Ken Robinson: How to escape education’s death valley

Favorite Quote:

Governments decide they know best and they’re going to tell you what to do. The trouble is that education doesn’t go on in the committee rooms of our legislative buildings. It happens in classrooms and schools, and the people who do it are the teachers and the students. And if you remove their discretion, it stops working.

Sugata Mitra: Build a School in the Cloud

Favorite Quote:

We need a curriculum of big questions, examinations where children can talk, share and use the Internet, and new, peer assessment systems. We need children from a range of economic and geographic backgrounds and an army of visionary educators. We need a pedagogy free from fear and focused on the magic of children’s innate quest for information and understanding.

Malala Yousafzai United Nations Speech 2013

Favorite Quote:

Dear brothers and sisters, we want schools and education for every child’s bright future. We will continue our journey to our destination of peace and education for everyone. No one can stop us. We will speak for our rights and we will bring change through our voice. We must believe in the power and the strength of our words. Our words can change the world.  Because we are all together, united for the cause of education. And if we want to achieve our goal, then let us empower ourselves with the weapon of knowledge and let us shield ourselves with unity and togetherness.

Hackschooling makes me happy

Favorite Quote:

We don’t seem to make how to be healthy and happy a priority in our schools; it’s separate from schools, and for some kids it doesn’t exist at all, but what if we didn’t make it separate? What if we based our education on the practice of being happy and healthy because that’s what it is: a practice, and a simple practice at that. … Education is important, but why is being happy and healthy not considered education? I just don’t get it.

If students designed their own schools…

Favorite Quote:

It’s crazy that in a system that is meant to teach and help the youth there is no voice from the youth at all.

I think the more options we have in our schools, the more students we will help develop into the kind of citizens that we need and that it’s okay for you to need a little bit of a different approach from mine.

“To This Day” … for the bullied and beautiful

Favorite Quote:

Why else would we still be here?
we grew up learning to cheer on the underdog
because we see ourselves in them
we stem from a root planted in the belief
that we are not what we were called we are not abandoned cars stalled out and sitting empty on a highway
and if in some way we are
don’t worry
we only got out to walk and get gas
we are graduating members from the class of
f–k off we made it
not the faded echoes of voices crying out
names will never hurt me

TN Student Speaks Out About Common Core, Teacher Evaluations, and Educational Data


I stand before you because I care about education, but also because I want to support my teachers, and just as they fought for my academic achievement, so I want to fight for their ability to teach. This relationship is at the heart of instruction, yet there will never be a system by which it is accurately measured.

Middle school football players execute life-changing play

Favorite Quote:

I kind of went from being somebody who mostly cared about myself and my friends to caring about everyone and trying to make everyone’s day and everyone’s life.

I Will Not Let An Exam Result Decide My Fate

So this one is for my generation.  The ones that found what they were looking for on Google, the ones who followed their dreams on Twitter, pictured their future on Instagram, accepted destiny on Facebook.This ones for my “failures” and “dropouts”  For my unemployed graduates. My shop assistants, cleaners and cashiers with bigger dreams!! My world changers and dream chasers!!
Because purpose of “Why I hate school, but love education” was not to initiate a world wide debate, but to let them know that whether 72 or 88, 44 or 68.  We will not let an exam results decide our fate. Peace.

My Last Days: Meet Zach Sobiech

Favorite Quote:

You don’t have to find out you’re dying to start living… You can either sit in your basement and wait, or you can get out there and do some crazy stuff… Life is just a bunch of beautiful moments, one right after the other…

A Pep Talk from Kid President to You

Favorite Quote:

This is your time. This is my time. It’s our time, if we can make everyday better for each other, if we’re all in the same team lets start acting like it. We got work to do. We can cry about it or dance about it. We were made to be awesome. Lets get out there.

Landfill Harmonic Amazing and Inspirational

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

December 17, 2013 at 10:59 pm

A Culture of Kindness: 26 Acts of Kindness – 2013

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Why on earth would a rational person give money to charity–particularly a charity that supports strangers? What do they get?

A story.

In fact, every time someone donates to a good cause, they’re buying a story, a story that’s worth more than the amount they donated.

It might be the story of doing the right thing, or fitting in, or pleasing a friend or honoring a memory, but the story has value. It might be the story that you, and you alone are able to make this difference, or perhaps it’s the story of using leverage to change the world. For many, it’s the story of what it means to be part of a community.  Seth Godin

This Seth Godin quote provides a solid rationale why adults give to charities.  Kids and young people don’t have nor do many of them think about charity in terms of dollars and cents.  A precursor to giving both time as a volunteer and money as an adult, I believe, is creating a culture of kindness and giving in kids’ home and school lives.

We need to create a “culture of kindness,” encouraging a spirit of generosity and love where differences are accepted and celebrated, rather than targeted. In a culture of kindness, students stand up for and next to one another, all for one and one for all.  A dedicated effort to teach, advocate, and model kindness will work much better than efforts to punish meanness. Michael Josephson

One of the best ways to create a culture of kindness is to model and live one.  Last year, in response to the Sandy Hook travesty, Ann Curry propose 26 acts of kindness to honor the 26 children and teachers killed at the elementary school. My post of last year’s acts, Living a Life of Kindness: #26acts.  I plan on making this a yearly occurrence and posting about it – hopefully to inspire others to add a little more kindness into their own and their kids’/students’ lives. (Note: I actually have been doing acts of kindness for years especially around the holidays when I get a break from my college teaching.  I never told anyone of these acts as they are personal and I don’t do them for any need of acknowledgement.  But as I’ve stated, I hope telling this story inspires others to be proactive in their acts of kindness.)

Below are the beginning of my 2013 list as a response to Black Friday – they are my stories of giving kindness.  They begin with acts that were not financial based and then with acts of giving money to charities.

#1 – Clerk with Autism

I went to the local Hastings to buy my brother some books for the holidays.  I asked for a specific genre – WWII – because this topic is a passion for my brother, who has Aspergers.  I explained this to her.  She said that she has Asperger’s, too.  I told her that she was doing well as a clerk and she said sometimes it is hard for her.  That night there was a special event at the mall.  The center of the mall was set up to host live bands and some of the local restaurants were giving away free appetizers.  I explained this to the clerk who did not know of the event.  I asked her if she had a break to go check out the event.  She said she did not as she was only on 5 hour shifts.  At the same time, two of the young Hastings clerks, early twenties possibly, were going on break and headed towards this event.  The clerk asked them as they were leaving, “Can you get me some food?”  They totally ignored her.  As soon as I finish paying for the books, I headed to the event, grabbed several appetizers, went back to Hastings, and handed her the food.

#2 – Birthday Party for Kim

20131106_165623Kim is a very sweet and dedicated spin bike instructor.  She is giving is time, energy, and resources . . . goes way beyond what one expects or gets from a fitness instructor.  She told us a birthday was coming up.  I got party decorations and a decadent chocolate cake and set up the spin room prior to class.  She celebrated through three of her classes.

#3 – An Unexpected Hug

I take a pottery class at the local community college.  There about 15 in the class including an older woman from Germany.  She is abrupt in her comments and thoughts; and lacks the humor that most of the rest of us have in the class.  She is not well-liked due to this.  I have somewhat befriended her talking to her about her pots.  We had a long break coming due to Thanksgiving.  She was leaving and wished me a Happy Thanksgiving.  I asked her for a hug before she left expecting a little, slight embrace.  The opposite occurred.  She gave me a strong, long, caring hug – such an unexpected treat.

#4 – Donated to Save the Children disaster relief efforts for Typhoon Haiyan right after the typhoon.


#5 – Supported the amazing Black Girls Rock by Tweeting about their sheros show and purchasing a t-shirt.

#6, 7, 8, 9, 10 – Donated special gifts through Save the Children – 2 goats, school clinic, clean water clinic, community book bank, 14 week supply of ready to use food


#11 – Selected a Donors Choose program for a local classroom teacher to buy books, The Fault in Our Stars and Thirteen Reasons Why, for her teen students.


#12 – Another donation to help with those in the Philippines affected by the typhon


#14 – Donation to help in Haiti’s Beyond the Borders to help end childhood slavery there.

#15 – Donated to Indiegogo project – Afrimakers: Empower makers in Africa to develop sustainable projects and use making to solve local challenges and create an exchange of best practices between locals.

#16 – Gave a Hug & a Chocolate Treat

I have a fitness instructor who is amazing in fitness but lacking in social skills.  She often runs her group fitness classes like a drill sergeant – making everyone be there on time and yelling about form the whole time.  Many don’t take her class due to this.  But I like her routine, so I put up with her “meanness”.  That day someone in class mentioned it was her birthday.  After class, I took a deep breath and went up to her to give her a hug.  During her barely touching me hug, I said that I appreciated her classes and was happy I got to take them.  That day I went to the local bakery and bought her chocolate brownies and gave them to her as a birthday/Christmas present a few days later.  She seemed genuinely appreciative.

#17 – Donated to Be K.I.N.D. to a Girl in Malawi. Provide a School Scholarship.


#18 – Ceramic Sponges to My Pottery Buds

Bought and gave out specialized ceramic sponges to my pottery buddies.


#19 – Toys for Tots Zumbathon

Attended a Zumbathon where the entrance fee was a toy for tots.

20131214_122444FYI – I bought the Black and Decker kids’ toolkit seen in the front.  It supports my belief that kids’ toys and play should involve creating, making, innovating.

#20 – Holiday Treats for My Brother and His Family

I have been disconnected with my youngest brother and his family for about three years – no calls, presents, or cards.  It was not precipitated by anything.  It just happened.  I bought and am sending his family a basket of baked treats for a local bakery for Christmas.

#21 – Donated and Supported (through Tweets) to Project for Awesome

Donated to get a t-shirt and a signed copy of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars (score! in many ways).


#22 – Donated to Pencils of Promise to Help Build a School

2013-12-17_1917#23 – Helped 80-something Betsy learn how to shape a pottery bowl

I rented some studio space at Santa Fe Clay for the month of December because the college where I do pottery is closed for the winter break.  Studio space costs some $$$ – it has as such become a place where retired and a bit wealthy patrons make pots.  I have been going in a few hours several days a week.  I tend to just focus on my work.  I did notice a woman probably in her mid or late 80s working on some bowls and asked her about it.  She told me that she made pots in her 20s and wanted to get back into it.  She explained that it was NOT like riding a bike and that she was struggling a bit.  I have a great handmade wooden tool, called a rib, that’s great for shaping bowls.  As she was working on a bowl, I asked her if I could shape her bowl to show her how.  She watched intently and asked some questions.  I told her to try the rib on her next bowl.  When she got to the point of shaping with my rib, I went over and talked her through using it.  Her bowl looked good – much better than the bowls she made earlier – and showed me as such.  She thanked me and said it was probably the best tip she’s gotten since going back to pottery.  A little bit of my time made a difference for her AND for me as the gift in giving is priceless.

#24 – Donated to Unicef USA as an end of year matched donation

2013-12-31_1037#25 – Donated to Save the Children

2013-12-31_1115#26 – Donated to International Rescues


Parting shot . . .


Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

December 1, 2013 at 10:42 pm

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