Wednesday, November 26, 2008

WOW, Schools!

My lack of posting last week was as much due to my busy dak event schedule as it was to the nasty virus that ravaged my entire body. I'll spare you the details of the viral war and wow you with the scoop on all the school activities.

I am so thrilled with the momentum of the dakband project within the school system. This past, November 17th to 21st, was National Bullying Awareness Week in Canada. Elementary and secondary schools within the Halton Catholic School Board recognized the importance of this occasion with a variety of activities and events designed to increase awareness and empathy of students, teachers and families. We are proud to share that two local secondary schools, Notre Dame and St. Ignatius of Layola, distributed dakbands to their prefects and students as part of their anti-bullying campaigns! I was invited to both schools to talk with the prefects about the bands and how by simply wearing them we are reminded of a higher purpose and the conscious choices we make in response to others. I believe it is wiser and more effective to encourage kindness, than to spend our energy trying to 'prevent' bullying.

Finally at the end of week the Halton Catholic School Board hosted it's second annual 'Be the Change' conference. Two student leaders from each school were invited to the conference. Throughout the day, in groups of 12/13, the students rotated through 6 stations. Each station featured activities that taught them the importance and significance of their roles within their school and community in relationship to aspects of bullying prevention. Kara and I hosted one of these stations, and spoke to the students and teachers about the ability of kindness to change how we live in our communities. It was absolutely amazing to see their reactions to the dakbands, students and teachers alike. We had some administrators who told us that this was the most awesome project they had EVER seen. All the schools left with information on how to implement the dakband project into their school community.

As the person who approves stories before they are posted to the site I can say with great delight and pride that the students at these schools have used the bands with integrity and empathy! I have listed below some band numbers for you to look up, so you can see the simplicity and value and meaning behind the deliberate acts of kindness that these students have shared.

Please go to our track your dak page:

#29636 (WOW)
#29798 (teacher appreciation)
#31306 (friendship)
By clicking on the 'organization' tab on the track your dak page and choosing either of these schools, you can see all the stories they have registered.

I am so encouraged by the vision of a kinder, more humane, community these students and schools have!

More to come, the next few days are filled with exciting events!!


Monday, November 17, 2008

Restoration

I’d like to leave the Maryann post up forever, just because I want as many people as possible to recognize her. Recognize and acknowledge the ‘Maryanns’ in their lives, those individuals who are the first to raise their hands (and get them dirty), to wrap those around them in encouragement, to see the big picture and work tirelessly on the long and winding road that leads there. However, the nature of the blog demands some on-going train of thought and I have been moved by an article in the Toronto Star by Roy McMurtry (former chief justice of Ontario) and Alvin Curling (a former Liberal cabinet minister and speaker of the Ontario Legislature), entitled, ‘Roots of violence grow in toxic soil of social exclusion’.

It describes how the erosion of social and community networks are contributing factors to a sense of hopelessness among our youth that supports the proliferation of gangs, a desensitization to violence, increases in violence, mental health concerns, apathy and isolation. It is discouraging – to say the least. Although the article speaks specifically about incidents in Toronto, it is important that those of us who feel protected by the illusion of suburbia, and our commuter status, need to understand the viral nature of the problem. Distance from the ‘big city’ whether it be Toronto or any other urban center in North America, does not provide immunity. As the conclusion of the article suggests, the restoration of our communities depends on the quality of relationships we nurture – my wording, but the idea is similar.

I believe that the dakband project is part of the solution precisely because it helps to establish and re-establish relationships. The etymology (history) of the word kind(ness)dates back to the 12th century and means: to feel like you are related to each other, compassionate. It also comes from the Greek word, chrestotes which means to have a morally excellent character, to be good, gracious, gentle and kind. And we are told in the famous passage from 1 Corinthians, that love is two things: patient, and kind. We cannot minimize the importance of simple, yet conscious, deliberate acts of kindness to begin the restoration process, to cultivate relationships, to generate peace and ignite hope.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Maryann

You might think that with a project like Deliberate Acts of Kindness I would know all the synonyms, adjectives and kindness clich├ęs on the planet. And yet I am struggling. I want to give you the essence of Maryann so you can appreciate how kindness changes the way we live in the world.

One of wonderful emanations of the dakband project are the impromptu gifts of encouragement we receive from people we’ve never met. People who have received a dakband (or two), gone to the site to share their story and are so excited by the project that they email us their congratulations. For example, I was blown away when Heidi (Sacred and Profane) posted our button on her blog, and even blogged about the dakbands! Which led to Rhea (Texas Word Tangle), the SITS Girls (the SITS Girls), and Cheryl (Marching to a Different Drummer), sending us tidings of encouragement. Most of the time, it is a brief, uplifting, yet somewhat anonymous note, meaning the sendee isn’t really expecting a reply. However, the first note I received from Maryann - which was followed a few days later by a telephone call – was loud. But not an in-your-face-obnoxious loud, it was a big, round, yellow, warm, life-is-so-full-of-surprises loud. She basically said, “I want to meet you!”

Call me crazy, but I soon found myself driving down to have lunch with her and friend – Maryann has lots of friends. Well, you would have thought I discovered penicillin. Her vision and enthusiasm for the project was so HUGE. By end of the afternoon I kind of felt like I had discovered penicillin, and was about save humanity, so great was Maryann’s stroking of my reluctant ego. (However my family soon deflated my grandiose day dreams with their cries for dinner!) From that first meeting she has become a dak machine, purchasing bands, giving them to clients (she and her husband are financial planners), approaching retailers to sell them, contacting local papers, local schools, sitting for hours and selling them at fundraising events, and providing valuable feedback. She does all this at her own expense, with that same generous, beaming spirit that leapt off the page when I read her first email.

Please go to our track you dak page and pull up Financial Planning Etc. from the organization drop down list to see all the bands she has given away. Maryann has one band #30390 that has 4 stories attached to it!

If you know someone like Maryann please share your story as a comment and I will send you and your Maryann a set of bands!

….and when Maryann comes for dinner this Saturday we’ll read the stories together!



Thursday, November 6, 2008

Teacher Interview

Today we have an interview with Linda Kiefer, a Montessori teacher from Illinois. Although Linda and I have never met face to face, I feel like we know each other very well. We have a 'virtual' friendship kindled by the dakband project but anchored in Linda's complete absence of technical expertise (she contacted me initially to tell me she could not register the bands she had purchased - and she purchased a ton of them!), and my obsessive need to ensure that every band and story is in fact registered! There were a few evenings when I was tempted to jump on a plane and fly down to Illinois to register all the bands myself.

Through all this I have been moved by Linda's perseverance and commitment to the project. Despite the difficulties, she had a vision that was bigger than the problems. Here is what she has to share with us:

Interview Questions:

1. Linda can you tell me a little about yourself: what grade you teach, how long you’ve been a teacher, where you teach, children, interests....
I'm one of those people who's always going to be in school. I have a Master's in Speech and Language Pathology, a year of post-grad work (which would only have made it easier to work grant to grant), worked in California for a few years was a long-term sub at Michigan School for the Blind, and then switched totally to Medicine for about 8 years. I worked as a Surgical Physician's Assistant for many years in Baltimore, MD until after the birth of my second child, when I decided to be a full-time Mom.I still dream of another Master's that marries Montessori with Special Ed. As it stands, I'm Montessori certified for grades 1-6 (with non-readers to those at the 10th grade level, and those doing rudimentary addition all the way to algebra).

As life would have it, times changed and I found myself going back to school and being a single Mom. I had one multiply impaired son, and another with ADD; it was time to see what I could do that used my backgrounds, but kept me close to the boys. Thus I found Montessori, and all it entails, including allowing children to do everything that they're able to do, and encouraging a life of peace and conflict resolution.


2. How did you learn about the dakbands, and what was your initial impression?
In my continuous studying, I came across TRIBES, recalled that one of my sons had been in it quite successfully, and I was off and looking for more information. Last Spring, as I was planning for my class for this year, I came across dakbands and the whole concept of changing the way children see their world by changing how they live it. I was psyched and wanted to start it then, but decided to wait until this fall.

3. Who did you buy the bands for and why?
Initially, I decided to use our class (one of two first to third grade classes), and the newly established Middle School (4 kids), along with all Elementary Staff and the Middle School Teacher. I chose to kick it off with a food drive for the local food pantry, rewarding children who brought something in, with their first pair of dakbands. First I had to explain the difference between "random" acts of kindness and sincerely directed "deliberate" acts of kindness. What I thought was going to be a hard and even impossible task, the children took to as though they always knew it deep down, and simply needed to have it brought to the surface. I'm so proud of them! These children, aged 6-9, knew more about kindness than many adults that I know.

4.Can you tell me why you feel the dakbands are an important tool for kids/families?
No longer do I find the "tattling" or looking for differences, but I find the bands have brought us closer together as a team and as classes (it's spilled over to adults and other Elementary classes!), and made teaching so much more pleasant. Sometimes it's been my roughest gems that have the more tender hearts and are willing to share their bands and tell others what they saw. We meet several times during the day, reviewing the schedules, but also reviewing good times and positive behaviors. I'm so very proud of these young people, carrying forward their new-found ways of Being, which is what it's become.


5. How have the children in your class responded to the bands.
They were taught how to register their bands, and a letter went out to parents explaining the concept, but these children actually couldn't *wait* to hand off their bands when they saw good things happening. They knew that they could follow their bands if they registered them, but excitement overcame all and I was amazed at the things they wanted to recognize in another

6. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I gave a set to my youngest son this weekend as he helped a grocery store stock boy with some runaway carts, not expecting anything in return, just knowing it was the right thing to do. He stood stock still for a moment, then asked quietly,"These are for *me*?". I smiled and hugged him and said they most certainly were--and they were his to pass on to other people that he saw doing genuine acts of kindness, with nothing expected in return. He stared at me, then excitedly returned an "Oh!", as though a light bulb had just gone off. What a grand sight to see.

That's what keeps me going on tough days; I know that we're making a difference in the way these children see their world now, thanks to a few wristbands and kindness from fellow students. I hope that this goes on all year--I'll buy more if I need to! If we can't change the children, how in the world can we change what we want our future to be?

Thanks for helping to get it moving in all of our classes, Elaine. I really think this is going to create a change in our future.

Talk about touching a life by teaching....


Please remember to share a story for our giveaway.

Please see the story attached to band #38738.