Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Kindness Is A Super Power!

Happy National School Counseling Week! Have you hugged your school counselor today? Hop on over to The Corner on Character to hear what a few of my students have to say about my job.

My loving family sent me these Character Cookies to celebrate!

I just love working in a profession where we get to help shape hearts and minds for the future. Katie Couric once said, "Kindness is not an inherited trait; it is a learned behavior." As such, we must teach our kids how to be kind, to think with their hearts. First and foremost, that happens through modeling, by showing our children kindness, because little eyes are watching, little minds are processing, little hearts are feeling. We must be kind to one another and treat each other with dignity and respect. In our everyday interactions. With a gentle tone in our voice. With a genuine smile. With eyes that sparkle and say, 
"You matter to me; I care about you!" 

One of my all-time favorite treasures is this student-made book 
that focuses on the power of example:

What would I say?  No pressure . . . . 

Page by page, I get to read the things that my students see, hear, feel and experience as I guide them down character road. 

(If you need a good gift idea for a colleague or your students' caregivers, this is IT!)

This book filled my bucket - and then some!

Kindness begets kindness. Remember the old Faberge Organic Shampoo advertisement that suggests you tell a friend and she'll tell a friend and so on and so on . . . it's called the Power of One. Try that for a month. Do one kind thing every day. Suppose the recipients of your kindness did the same. Do you know how many kind acts you'd have had a hand in at the end February, for example? 268,435,456!  Go ahead, check my math. 
What if it were a month with 30 days? Or 31?  

What else can we do to intentionally teach our future leaders to be kind? Harness the hidden power of the kindness metaphor by joining the Bucket-Filler movement and teaching kids about emotional deposits and withdrawals. In a nutshell, being kind to one another fills invisible buckets (yours and theirs!); conversely, being unkind to people dips from the buckets. Here's the part I really like: the reciprocity. When I fill your bucket with a caring word or deed, mine fills up, too! 

I think the thing that struck me most when I heard about the concept (based on Rath and Clifton's How Full Is Your Bucket?) is that when people have an empty bucket, they simply don't have what it takes to fill buckets (others or their own) because they have nothing in their emotional reserve to spare, much less share. What does that say about how much learning is going on in the head and heart of a child with an empty bucket? Such an important message about our roles and responsibilities as mentors and influencers. 

Same teachers whose class made the book for me crafted this bulletin board visual!

Just how DO we fill buckets? Every little kindness puts a drop in. Explore the book Have You Filled A Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud for creatively colorful, every day examples of kind things that children and adults alike can do to fill buckets. And did you know that there's a version for younger children?

As an early-childhood educator with years of experience, Carol is well aware of how literal our littlest learners can be, so she put the bucket-filling concept into terms that they can better grasp and apply to their preK and K way. Good thing, too, because the first time I attempted to teach Bucket Filling to my preK students, their answer to my infamous follow-up inquiry - How could YOU fill a bucket today? - was a resounding, "with sand!" Yep, pretty literal. Be sure to stop frequently to check for understanding. 

Have students use the thumbs up signal to indicate bucket filling and thumbs down to indicate dipping. Throw out some additional example behaviors to make sure they're getting it. You use your manners (thumbs up!). You roll your eyes at someone (thumbs down!). You help someone who falls down. You forget to feed your dog. You save a seat for someone. (Careful, this one's kind of tricky!) When you think they're ready, let the students give the examples; I promise you'll gain some valuable insight into their world.

To help enrich your bucket-filling talk, sing the Fill A Bucket song I wrote using the tune of Frere Jacques/Are You Sleeping?:

Fill a bucket, fill a bucket.
It's easy to do, it's easy to do.
I can fill a bucket, I can fill a bucket,
So can you. So can you!

Fill a bucket, fill a bucket.
Smile and say hi, smile and say hi.
You can fill a bucket, you can fill a bucket,
Give it a try. Give it a try.

Fill a bucket, fill a bucket.
Help someone in need, help someone in need.
I will fill a bucket, I will fill a bucket
with every good deed, with every good deed.

Fill a bucket, fill a bucket, 
with your family, with your family.
We can all fill buckets, we can all fill buckets,
Try it and see. Try it and see.

Add some fun motions; perform it as an echo song or have students sing the whole thing. Find out what other things your songsters could think of to add to the song if they were to write another verse. The book also includes a song of its own, so use either one (or both!) to help your students grab ahold of this metaphor for kindness and put it into practice. 

Some of our teachers actually keep these personalized little buckets in their classrooms to keep track of every kindness shown by their students. Each time they fill an invisible bucket, they're given one of the cute little puffs to fill their classroom bucket.

You could keep buckets in your room as a visual reminder.

These puffs come in colorful shapes like hearts, stars, and flowers!

 Click here for more bucket-filling resources online.

What other books do you use to teach kindness to preK and K kiddos? In no particular order, here are a few of our other favorites:

Be kind about differences.
Every kind act leaves a heartprint.
Is Pinky being kind to Blue?
This kind Tree keeps on giving!
Paying it forward with a simple smile.

Another way to cement an abstract concept is with something tangible, so why not make a Kindness (or Caring) Chain. We used strips of colored paper to jot down the kind and caring things that we caught one other doing at our school. First, the strips were just linked together in each individual classroom, but after a month, we linked all of the classroom chains together to make one very long community chain that spanned the circumference the cafeteria.

Caring is thinking with our hearts!

Such a fun visual to show kids that kindness connects us! 

As seen in the halls at Westwood:  It's Cool To Be Nice!

Want a year's worth of acts of kindness ideas? 
Click here for a blog post I found with 52 smile suggestions.

Visit me at Westwood or at The Corner on Character 
for additional resources for your character building. Happy Bucket Filling!


  1. What a GREAT article, Barbara. I LUV all of the visuals, the sing-along, the book selections. What an amazing resource you've created for our audience and the wider world.

    I had an opportunity to visit a kindergarten classroom using the 'bucket filling analogy' and I've taken quite a few pictures of the 'system' that they used to reinforce the concept. It is in my blog article here: Hopefully those images can also inspire additional work on this oh-so-important topic. Special thanks for adding the cookie image.

  2. This is such a lovely idea for classrooms and life in general, I'm not a teacher but I will absolutely teach this to my daughter. Thank you for spreading the kindness and filling my bucket!

  3. WOW! I LOVE this! I have heard a little bit about the book "Have You Filled A Bucket Today" but this is wonderful! I love your visuals and your ideas and your song! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Beautiful ideas! :) kindness sure does make this world a wonderful place! My dad is a retired school counselor and developed a program called... "catch a kid!" the idea was to catch them being kind... So much like the awesome full a bucket idea!

  5. Love it Barbara! Simplicity and Beauty all in our daily acts of those buckets!

  6. I LOVE the concept of bucket filling! Character education and kindness projects are some of my favorite activities, and your ideas are wonderful! I pinned your post both to my Character Education Pinterest board and my Kindness Projects Pinterest board (!


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