First Day of School Kindness #BeKind21

Day 4 – Setting Up a Classroom Peace Area

On Tuesday, I set up a peace area for my students. A classroom peace area is a space set aside to aide students who are experiencing uncomfortable emotions, including anxiety, fear, and sadness, and it is also a space for a student to simply relax and gather oneself for a moment.

In my classroom peace area, a student (or a teacher) can sit and rub on some lotion, play with a little stuffed animal, explore a basket full of peace rocks, look at a model of the heart, and look at soothing images.

It is just a little corner of respite for anyone who might need it. I actually love sitting in it myself, and students can even just bring something they need from this area to their desk.

Day 5 – Cooking for My Family

On Wednesday night, I made bucatini and homemade tomato sauce for my family. I love the tomato sauce recipe from Diane Seed’s Top 100 Pasta Sauces. I used to make tomato sauces that were too spicy for my kids, but this recipe is one that everyone loves. It feels good to nourish my family before the first day of school.

Day 6 – The First Day of School with a New Ritual

I always wake up early on the first day of school. This morning, I was up at 5 am. I resisted my phone and computer for some relaxation. I filled the tub with hot water and bath salts, made myself this tea, and read a bit of Thich Nhat Hanh’s wisdom –

Many people mix up happiness with excitement, but excitement is not exactly happiness. When you’re excited, there’s not enough peace in you, and the happiness isn’t real.

After the bath, as my family awoke and we started bustling around, I felt a little more reserved than usual – a good thing for me. This quotation resonated with me throughout the day and helped me to cultivate the presence I wanted to have for my beginning ESL students and for modeling my best self for my student teacher. You can see in the latter pictures that my students and my student teacher are working together collaboratively, purposefully, and deliberatively on a writing task.

Back-To-School Radical Kindness with the Born This Way Foundation’s 21 Days to Be Kind

This September, I am working on practicing radical kindness through the Born This Way Foundation‘s 21 Days to Be Kind initiative. As a parent and educator, at this extremely busy time of year, I believe that deliberate and strategic kindness with support my inner self, my family, my students, my colleagues, and my community through this time of transition.

My hope is to improve my ease with myself and the way I treat others. Because of my misjudgments, impulsivities, and wrongs that make me downright human. Because I can get so caught up in schedules, chores, should-haves, paperwork, social media, gossip, I am committing to 21 Days to Be Kind to focus on what truly matters – the way I treat myself and others.

A lot of my focus this Labor Day weekend is on self-care – this is setting the stage for the upcoming and potentially very stressful week. I am counting down until Thursday – the first day of school – when I need to bring my biggest smile and maximum energy to greet all of our students and get them off to a great start.

September 1 – Run

Running is my ultimate stress release and the one non-work non-family all-by-myself commitment I make three times per week. My husband and I are training for separate half marathons this fall – and I am doing my first full marathon in February.  It has benefitted our relationship so much – we have fewer arguments and a hobby to discuss and geek out on. I love making my playlists. My current one is music from the 60’s that I loved as a child – the Monkees, the Beatles, Jefferson Airplane, The Fifth Dimension. On Saturday, along my 9.5 mile run, I smiled at strangers and greeted them with good morning. It felt good to get so many smiles back. Literally – smiles for miles. I was also treated to Fujiko Nakaya’s Fog X FLO sculpture at Jamaica Pond.

September 2 – Healthy Food 

Today I made a meal plan and got groceries. It makes me feel really good to be organized with a refrigerator full of healthy food and a plan of how to use it.

I became a vegetarian in December after reading Tracy McQuirter’s By Any Greens Necessary. As I ruminated on the practice of non-violence, I decided that being vegetarian was one choice I could make to slow unnecessary cruelty – to animals but also to the people who work in the dangerous meatpacking industry. I ate a lot of vegan junk food in the beginning, but now I am learning how to make better choices. I like to get cookbooks from the library to get inspiration and ideas. My family is currently enjoying recipes from Phaidon’s Vegan cookbook as well as from Eat Greens and Super Easy Vegan Slow Cooker.

This plan is especially important this week – school starts on Thursday, and the next few days will be jam packed with preparations.

To a Thinker: An Original Poem by Jennifer Dines

An original poem by Jennifer Dines.

An original poem by Jennifer Dines.

To a Thinker (PDF download)