Learning opportunities can come unexpectedly. Yesterday morning I walked past the staff room and out came one of our classroom teachers with an ashen look on her face. It turns out that she had made a Valentine’s cookie for every student in the class with the plan to decorate them together. However, she made the mistake of leaving the dish of cookies on the staff room table for a full 30 minutes. When she went back to grab the cookies, half of them were gone…let’s face it, we often share our homemade treats with each other so you really can’t leave food hanging around.
So, like any good teacher, she posed the problem to her students. This teacher proposed that she bake more cookies for Monday and then the class can have two Valentine’s Days. Great idea, right? It would keep the kids from being disappointed and they surely wouldn’t whine about that solution. Much to this teacher’s delight, the proposal from the students had nothing to do with replacing the treats. Instead the class decided to take the ten remaining cookies, decorate them, and give them to adults in the building that don’t usually receive goodies. No whiners in this classroom – only kids who found more delight in “paying it forward”. In fact, three of the boys in this class made me a cookie in appreciation of my playing football with them during recess. Word spread quickly of this adventure through Harold Martin. Not surprisingly, another classroom invited our cookie class to their Valentine Ice Cream Social to show appreciation. Again…”paying it forward”.
The moral of the story? First, it’s clear that this teacher has developed a responsive, caring classroom full of students who trust each other and their teacher. We adults know the joy of giving but we don’t think of eight year olds having the same consciousness. Second, it’s obvious that the children’s parents have done a great job raising caring boys and girls. Third, we see in action a principle that is true for any human being within any institution: when there is a shift in power, great things can happen. The teacher didn’t lead the charge for this initiative. Yes, she created the conditions for the students’ selfless actions and modeled the behavior throughout the year. But, the students felt empowered to act and change the world instead of moaning about their loss of cookies.
I hope your Valentine’s Day was just as memorable.