Tag Archives: kindness

Those Little Moments


teach with passionJust before this new school year begins I was reminded of something important.  Something I need to share with my readers…especially teachers getting ready to return to the classroom or those ready to enter the classroom for the first time.

This important reminder happened at a wedding.  I was honored to be invited and was there to witness a beautiful bride and her groom beginning their new life together.  The bride was a former student of mine, Kaitlyn.  I taught this young lady in high school in a Teacher Academy program.  She was a gal who was always fun to have in the classroom.  She was friendly, upbeat and creative.  Today she has just finished her second year of teaching and is half way through her Masters program.  She is an intervention specialist in an elementary school who also wants to become a school administrator.   Last Saturday she was a bride.

At her gorgeous wedding reception her dad walked past me.  I recognized him easily because he was one of those great “go-t0” fathers you could count on whenever you were up to your ear lobes with a project that needed a father’s touch.  He once helped the kids turn a grocery cart into a  fabulous float “they” had designed for the Homecoming Parade.  As he passed me at the wedding reception I put my hand on his arm and joked, “Hey, I have another school project I could use some help with.”

His face broke into a wonderful smile.  We talked about how beautiful his daughter looked as a bride.  Then he delivered the message I want to share with you.  This is what he said.

You are the lady who changed my daughter’s life.  My wife and I have talked about it for years. We are so grateful to you for changing her into the wonderful confident young woman she has become.  And you did it with one phone call.  Did I ever tell you that?  One single phone call from you and she became a completely different person.  We can never thank you enough.

One Phone Call ??

One Phone Call ??

Here’s the important point teachers.  Listen carefully.  I have no memory of that phone call.  NONE!  Not… one… word.   That is the way it is in the teaching profession.  This has happened to me enough times that I swear to you that this fact is true.

Frequently you will be making your greatest impact when you are completely unaware of it.

The first time this happened to me it was mind-boggling.  I couldn’t believe it.  But by now, after decades of teaching, I know to trust those words and their sincerity.  I cherish and appreciate the moment when it occurs.  We teachers frequently never know about the ways we change lives.  But if you are passionate about teaching and making students feel valued, it will happen to you.  I hope you are committed enough to the field of teaching to stay with the profession long enough to allow this to happen in your life.  The satisfaction it will bring you defies description.

Later on during this special wedding evening, the mother of the bride approached me and repeated the words her husband had shared.  The bride even stopped by and told me in person while her groom verified her words.

While I still have no recollection of that phone call the dad gave me just enough details that I can imagine it.  He said something about she didn’t show up for an event and I called her.

Perhaps she registered for Teacher Academy and then got cold feet about it.  I often invited students into my classroom during the summer months to meet me.  I’d have snacks and let them come in and help me put up bulletin boards or we’d just sit around and talk.

Building a classroom community

It was just a casual event when they could meet some of the other students who wanted to be future teachers.  If she didn’t show up, I know I would have called her to reassure her.  She may have thought she needed a 4.0 GPA to be a teacher.  I would have listened to her fears and reassured her that many students profit the most from teachers who had their own challenges in school. All of us feel like we don’t fit in somewhere from time to time.  I would have stayed on the phone until she and I had built a rapport.   I know I would have done anything possible to make it easier for her to enter my classroom for the first time.  And so Kaitlyn joined my class.

In her second year of Teacher Academy Kaitlyn wrote, filmed and created a video about a program we had in our school called Firebird Link.  This was an initiative that planned activities throughout the school to help all students feel valued.  I wish you could see how creative this film was.  She started her film by showing just the feet of all the students (thousands of them) walking in the hallways of our school.  Her words were poignant.  “Where do I fit in?”  Kaitlyn won the national first place award from Future Educators of America for making an effective video to promote the teaching profession.  I was so proud to see her and her film shared up on that national stage.

Would she have been just as valuable a student if she hadn’t won an award?  Of course!  My classroom was an eclectic mix of brains, athletes, band members, theatre kids and students without any identifying labels at all.  We built a community in our classroom and supported one another.  We had one thing in common.  We wanted to help other students learn.

Some of my best “teaching”, my “change-your-life” moments didn’t happen in front of the classroom.  They happened in those private moments when I had one-on-one conversations with students.  One might show up before school just needing to talk, or hang back before leaving my classroom at the end of a bell.  Some dropped me notes as they left class.  They’d find me at lunch time or come up and chat with me after I went to see a game or a play they were in.  In Kaitlyn’s case it was one phone call that gave her the courage to walk toward a profession she was meant to pursue.  One single phone call.

My hope is that this story will help you start your school year with the goal of making the most of those small moments you have to make a student feel valued.

More Good News!

  • The boomerang kid got a job!  If you haven’t “met” the boomerang kid, scroll back a couple of entries and read the blog post about Michael.
  • Congratulations to all my former students who have landed their first teaching jobs this year!  You make me so proud.
  • I have been booked by several school districts to speak to their teachers and administrators during this school year.  I love to inspire educators face to face and this excites me.
  • A couple of districts are considering my latest book for educators TEACH…To Change Lives as a year-long book club project for their teachers to discuss and reflect on throughout the year.  What a great idea.

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed or in large quantities from the author:  dauna@cinci.rr.com

Also available at Amazon.com

Contact Dauna Easley to speak to your groupdauna@cinci.rr.com

A School Christmas


school hallways

By Dauna Easley

T”was the week before Christmas

And all through the schools,

It seemed that most people

Had forgotten the rules.

The noise in the hallways

Was louder than thunder,

The kids were all focused

On Christmas Day plunder.

Instead of note taking

The students just whined

Even the teachers

Were shopping online.

The days were just dragging

The clock ticked so slow,

The staff and the students

Were wishing for snow.

The cooks in the lunchroom

Served left over stew

The principal wondered

Just what she could do.

The spirit of Christmas

Was lost, don’t you see?

The spirit of Christmas is not about “me.”

She issued a challenge

No, this isn’t sappy,

She gave each class homework,

Make someone else happy.

One class made some posters

For kids who were sick,

One class made some cookies

And iced them all thick.

They gave them to seniors

Who were lonely and blue.

They kept thinking and scheming,

What else can we do?

They took food to the needy

Gathered toys for the poor

They noticed the sad ones

And knocked on their door.

They thought about homeless

Gathered mittens and gloves

They began to appreciate

The ones that they loved.

They sent letters to soldiers,

Mailed thousands of miles,

As they worked on each project

You began to see smiles.

They gave coats to the cold ones,

Spread hope to the blue

Worked faster and faster,

The time?  It just flew!

They volunteered time

Complimented their friends,

But this is not where

The ‘good doing’ ends.

They made new year promises

To keep this all going

It made them feel better

When kindness was flowing.

They’d invite someone different

To sit at their table

Make them feel welcome,

Yep, now they felt able.

You see all those hurting

Aren’t outside school walls,

Some of the saddest

Are walking our halls.

Being kind to a classmate

Is where it begins,

Kids who aren’t like you

Make wonderful friends.

Making a change

Is no long distance plight.

To create the best difference

Look left and look right.

The students had learned this

The principal beamed

The results were much better

Than even she dreamed

Who makes a school better?

Not “others.”  It’s you.

Start with a smile

And see all you can do.

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed or in large quantities from the author:  dauna@cinci.rr.com

Also available at amazon.com

Book Dauna Easley to speak to your group.  dauna@cinci.rr.com

Happy New (School) Year!


new school year

I confess.  As a teacher it used to annoy the summer sunshine right out of me when the stores starting stocking their shelves with school supplies on about the Fourth of July.  I had barely finished posting grades and watching the most recent class of seniors graduate and the merchandisers were trying to entice us into another school year.

Yet by August I was ready to begin the cycle once again.  I actually enjoyed decorating bulletin boards and thinking up new activities for getting acquainted with my students.  Shiny floors, new calendars, bright posters, a clean desk (which only occurred once a year), and students decked out in their favorite outfits gave a fresh exciting feel to a profession I loved.

One of my top priorities was to build a community within my classroom.  I created and “gathered” (stole) many ideas for helping students to connect with one another over the years.  We knew we had a community only when every member of the class was valued by everyone else.  The first part of becoming a community was learning facts about one another.

Bulletin Boards Created by My Students

  • Let them work on a project together.  Not everything in the classroom has to be perfect when they walk in.  Let them take ownership of their new home by designing some of their surroundings.

Building a classroom community

It Takes a Village

  • Have the students bring a photo or a baby photo on the first day of school.  Make a display.
  • Let the students bring items from home that illustrate important items or times in their lives.  Have them describe what those items stand for in front of their peers.
  • I always had a True/False Quiz about myself on the first day of school.  I wrote statements about me and had them write answers about whether they thought each statement was true or false.  I tried to fool them.  Allow some of the students who would like to participate to make up true false quizzes about themselves to try to stump their peers.
  • Type up a paper with everyone’s name on it.  Have classmates circulate around the room until they have listed two things they have in common with every other student in the room.
  • Line Up.  The first week of school have them line up in a variety of ways.  They have to get up and talk to each other to determine how to arrange themselves.  Line up youngest to oldest, Alphabetize themselves by the first letter of their middle name.  Group themselves by sports or school clubs they are involved in.  Line up by the number of siblings they have.  Line up by the grade they were in when they moved into your district.  Etc.
  • Let them write riddles about themselves that end in Who Am I? Peers use the clues to guess the student as the teacher reads the clues aloud.
  • Give out snack sized bags of M&Ms or Skittles.  Have them tell something about themselves for every piece of candy they have in the bag.
  • On the first day of school, I used to have my Teacher Academy students draw a picture using only their feet to hold the crayon.   I’d play funny music as they made these crazy drawings.  The point?  It was an icebreaker, but it also illustrated how uncomfortable students could be in our classroom when we asked them to do things that were new or difficult.
  • Give out a few pieces of a jigsaw puzzle to each student. Don’t reveal the design.  Have them work together to assemble the picture.  It can be a large drawing of your school logo, but it will take them a while to figure it out.  Meanwhile they make new friends.
  • Have them bring their chairs into a circle.  Ask a question to which they must all respond.  Example: ” Describe a person who makes you feel valued?  How do they make you feel that way?:”  This helps them focus on how we can make our classmates feel valued.  There will be a positive feeling in your classroom at the end of this activity.
  • Get them excited about working on a creative project together.  In our high school we were encouraged to decorate a grocery cart (instead of a parade float) for the Homecoming Game.

homecoming cart

You can’t build a community in a day.  However, working on building positive relationships within your classroom walls, will pay dividends for all your students.  it is time well spent.

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed on in large quantities from the author:  dauna@cinci.rr.com

Also available at Amazon.com

Kindness in the Classroom


Let’s Talk About Kindness

kindnessKindness helps everything.  It can smooth over advice for improvements.  Sincere empathy during a difficult time can make that adversity seem a little more bearable.   An unexpected kindness can build a positive rapport between people.  That rapport can then be used to give a young person the courage to discuss their challenges and dreams with you.  There is always a choice to bring kindness into a situation…especially the classroom.  Kindness can make even devastating news more palatable.  Kindness can be as simple as saying nothing when a young person has really made a poor choice.  We all need kindness the most when we deserve it least.

Be Kind to Yourself

kindness in the classroomAs a rule teachers are pretty tough on themselves.  We accept assignments late and jeopardize our own free time to show kindness to students.  We give up our lunch breaks, planning bells and spend countless hours before and after school tutoring, running clubs, or just talking with students.  We answer emails, call parents, serve on committees, mentor a new teacher and then end up taking all our grading home.  Most teachers are “yes” people.  It seems the last person we are kind to is ourselves.

A few summers ago I enrolled in a couple of one week workshops for teachers. One of the teachers had us do an activity I will never forget.  She asked us to write a letter to ourselves about any area or aspect of our life that concerned us.  The letters were going to be mailed back to our homes in a self-addressed stamped envelope at a specified later date.  But here is the twist that made this activity to powerful.  She asked us to write that letter using the same type of kind and encouraging words that we would use with a student.  Whoa! I learned very quickly that I talk to and criticize myself in a very different way than I would talk to students.  Writing to myself using the tact and care I use with my students was a very emotional experience.  I could tell it had the same impact on every teacher in that room. It revealed to me that on a daily basis I am probably my own worst enemy.

Helping Students Learn Kind Self-Talk

teach kindness to students

The following year I used this activity with my seniors shortly before they graduated.  It was a classroom full of future teachers.  They were going to be writing encouraging notes and letters to students.  I had them practice on themselves.  I gave them the same instructions my workshop teacher had given me.  They asked if I was going to read them or not.  I gave them the same answer as my workshop teacher.  “If you seal them, I won’t read them.”  As they wrote silently, you could feel the intensity in the classroom.  Rachael began to cry quietly as she wrote encouraging words to herself.  She wasn’t the only student who reacted with emotion.  She later said, “Well, Mrs. Easley, you made me cry in school.  I have managed to get through kindergarten and twelve years of school without ever crying in class.  But just before I graduate, you make me cry in class!”  Ouch.

While my goal certainly wasn’t to make her cry,  (truthfully she made herself cry with what she wrote), I could see the experience had made a lasting impact on her and many others in class.  When that much emotion is attached to an activity, you know that they have experienced something memorable.  To be honest I knew there were a few in the room who found the activity too emotional, and then just wrote something meaningless in the envelope and sealed it.  But I suppose that is true of any endeavor.  We get out of it what we are willing to put into it.  That is also true of life.

Hurdle Roadblocks with Kindness

roadblocks in lifeI’ve also learned that kindness works for me when I come across a roadblock in my life. I try to teach students about this technique.  The kindness doesn’t even have to be directed at the situation that is presenting a roadblock.  In fact it works better if it is completely unrelated.  Small kindnesses make us feel as good as the person to whom we direct the kindness.  When we feel better about ourselves, we are more effective on many fronts. Unselfish kindnesses do have a way of coming back to us with unexpected rewards, but that cannot and should not be our original goal.  Spreading kindness has a domino effect.  Except unlike dominoes kindness doesn’t knock people over, it builds them up.  And isn’t that the best definition of teaching?

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed or in large quantities from the author dauna@cinci.rr.com

Also available from Amazon.com

Choosing Kindness


One of my all time favorite quotes comes from the book Between Teacher and Child written by Dr. Haim Ginnott. He said, “In all situations it is the teacher who decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated, and a child humanized or dehumanized.” If every future teacher could somehow internalize and live just that one sentence, our classrooms and students would benefit every day.

However, that quote doesn’t just apply to teachers and their students, it applies to life.  As our population increases, it seems we have become less patient with one another. A person hesitates five seconds before moving on a green light and horns blare. A sales clerk has to call his manager to fix an error and people stomp away grumbling…or worse. A waitress places a lemon slice on someone’s water glass and the customer goes nuts.

Each of us has the power to de-escalate a tense situation. It’s a choice. All it takes is a smile, a kind word or even just calm patience. When we find our tempers rising we can choose to turn off that switch, take a deep breath and make a decision to de-escalate the situation. As the holidays and long lines increase this season we will all be put to the test.  Does it make anyone feel better to grind someone into the ground?  Where is the humanity in that? Escalate a situation and it almost always gets worse.   Everyone loses.  Add kindness and patience to the same situation and it will miraculously begin to improve. Everyone wins.

The choice is ours.