This is Barbara Bray sharing Episode #2 of the Rethinking Learning podcast with Tamara Letter about finding kindness through Passion Projects. Tamara added a post below the podcast expanding on what we talked about and included links and a few pictures. Please take a moment, listen and read more about Tamara’s journey to bring passion to learning through kindness. Enjoy!
Tamara Letter, Technology Integrator at Mechanicsville Elementary, Hanover County Public Schools, VA, shares why encouraging kids to find their passion through kindness matters.
Celebrating Kindness found my Passion
Five years ago, I was searching for a fun way to celebrate my 40th birthday. I decided to do 40 random acts of kindness and share the stories behind each act I completed. As a mom of three and an educator for twenty years, I know the impact positive actions can have on others. My goal was to sprinkle a little kindness into the world around me for each year I’ve been alive. I created my first blog, http://celebratekindness.wordpress.com, and started sharing my posts on Facebook and Twitter. What I didn’t realize at the time was this birthday celebration was actually a deeper passion of mine to make the world a better place.
Why Teachers Need to be Valued
As an instructional technology resource teacher, my purpose is to empower teachers to integrate technology into their daily instruction. I work in collaborative partnerships with teachers and administrators to find the best ways to engage students while teaching an age-appropriate curriculum. Working so closely with teachers and their students helps me to strengthen relationships and, in turn, support their individual learning needs as we learn and grow together. The role of an educator has changed drastically since I entered the profession in 1997. Teachers are asked to wear a multitude of hats each day as they care for their students’ academic, physical, social, and emotional needs. They are shaping the hearts and minds of our community with each child that enters their classroom; we need to value our teachers with respect and showcase the greatness they do every day!
Passion for Kindness projects
This year I worked in a collaborative partnership with Mrs. Cross, a fourth-grade teacher at Mechanicsville Elementary School. We wrote a grant called “A Passion for Kindness” and were awarded funds from the Hanover Education Foundation to implement a year-long kindness initiative with her students. Each week we would meet to learn more about kindness: reading books, engaging in collaborative activities, and reflecting on the kindness we saw or experienced in our lives. Students used their Kindness Journals to document their stories to #CelebrateMonday or #FlyHighFri and I would share stories with them that were posted on Twitter or other kindness platforms like The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation or the Facebook group Reward for Kindness . Students continued showing kindness to others with activities like creating inspirational posters to display around our school and sharing flowers with school staff.
As the year progressed, we surprised our students with a ten dollar bill, allowing them to create a random act of kindness project to benefit someone other than themselves. Students brainstormed in collaborative groups, sharing their project ideas on Google Classroom, then researched the costs of items to stay within their ten dollar budget. Students then planned out their projects making detailed notes in their Kindness Journals as the excitement grew for final implementation. With help from parents and select teachers, students completed their act of kindness, documenting the event with photographs and reflections typed in Google Docs.
As a culmination of our Kindness Passion Projects, students followed a scientific method structure to organize the details of their project onto a display board which was then shared with our community stakeholders in May during our Kindness Share Fair. It was a day of jubilation as students had the opportunity to share their projects with others and realize the power they each had to make a difference in the lives of others. Click on the picture below of the students to learn more about the Kindness Share Fair:
Create a “Passion for Kindness” in Your Classroom
Kindness, often thought of as a “soft skill”, is actually a thread of humanity that is woven in all we do. Character traits such as compassion and empathy naturally occur in students when they seek kindness in the world around them. By creating “A Passion for Kindness” in your classroom, students can strengthen these skills while also integrating academic skills such as digital writing, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication.
Each one of us has a passion for something in our lives. Maybe it’s a favorite hobby or sport; perhaps it’s supporting a favorite charity, traveling the world, or raising children. I am passionate about altruism and find great joy in showing kindness to others. Each act of kindness I perform, whether opening the door for a stranger or greater acts of generosity like buying a stranger’s meal, remind me of the power shown in human connection. We have the ability to change the world through our interactions with one another! Even if those changes are merely seeds planted to bloom at another time, one act of kindness has the potential to spark another act of kindness which in turn places a bit more positivity in our daily life.
Tamara Letter is a passionate technology integrator with 20 years’ experience in education, specializing in differentiation, creativity, and innovation through personalized professional development. As an Instructional Technology Resource Teacher (ITRT) with Hanover County Public Schools, she has presented numerous sessions at local, state, and international conferences. She presented at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference in 2014 inspiring others in an Ignite session with her passions for blogging and performing random acts of kindness. At ISTE 2016, she shared her experiences with Passion Projects through poster sessions, webinars, and various digital and printed publications. Tamara also serves as Social Media Chair for the Virginia Society for Technology in Education (VSTE) Conference.