Obviously, this is not the first time I meet people whose core values and beliefs are far beyond the average. It is not the first time, either, that I have been able to learn and understand that some of the smallest things you do in life, whatever they are for good or not, come back to you in some way, even when you are not concerned about receiving anything in exchange for what you did.
Let’s make it short and try to make sense to what I was trying to talk about in the previous paragraph… This is a quick picture of how it worked.
Our Campus received a donation of certain materials that a foundation created to promote “kindness” (beautiful concept, by the way), because they really believe “[…] in the power of kindness to change the way our children perceive their self worth and interact with the world around them.”
I have been working as an educator for almost 27 years now. I have had the privilege of teaching and learning with Elementary, Middle and High School students, also with adults, with other teachers, and last but not least with teacher trainers and education advisors… In three different countries. One thing I have learned is common to all of them: the importance of self-esteem for achieving goals. For everyone: young learners or experienced teachers or leaders. The importance of kindness and feeling safe to improve. When you understand “what it’s like to be different and […] to love and embrace the differences in us all”. So it was love at first sight. First page of the students’ journal: “Look at yourself in the mirror and draw what you see”.
Let’s think for a moment that you believe that you can add (perhaps presumptuously) some value to a great quality material. Being humble. Giving feedback. Providing support for some of the things you know you can do, and not interfering with the good stuff where you are not necessarily an expert at.
So I decided to spend a couple of hours during my winter break trying to put together all those things and looking for an e-mail address where I could send them to the people who made the (did I already mention they are AMAZING?) materials… With some humble words of appreciation, of course.
Note: all names have been erased intentionally. Sorry… I know that the information can be found researching the web but I am not mentioning any person or institution to let this event remain as anonymous as possible. Thank you.
****************** E-MAIL 1 STARTS *
Dear Team at [___]], […]
First of all, please receive my congratulations for the initiative. Promoting kindness, self-esteem and emotional intelligence in our students is always welcomed and the effort is worth all our commitment.
That is why I have decided to spend some time during my winter break going through the text of the Spanish version of your [___] journal that I kindly received for my 2nd grade students […].
I am attaching some suggestions for future reprints in case you may want to take them into consideration.
I hope you may find this work useful. Thank you again for your support.
****************** E-MAIL 1 ENDS *
This was the first immediate response (spoiler alert, not the one you are expecting…):
****************** E-MAIL 2 STARTS *
Delivery has failed to these recipients or groups:
[e-mail address hidden, sorry]
Your message couldn’t be delivered. The Domain Name System (DNS) reported that the recipient’s domain does not exist.
****************** E-MAIL 2 ENDS *
Okay. Any sensible person would decide to desist and say: “perhaps it was NOT a good idea…”. But if I were a sensible person I would probably not be living the life I have decided to live right now, so it required some “[famous-search-engine-name-hidden] search” to find another working e-mail address, that finally came out with no guarantee of having anyone listening at the other end. So I forwarded the rejected e-mail to the new address and this time I did not receive an “immediate response”. Good sign.
I completely forgot about it. Winter break was over. New semester on with batteries recharged.
A few days later, I received this completely unexpected message:
****************** E-MAIL 3 STARTS *
SUBJECT: Because of your kindness…
Dear Mr. Alba,
Hello from all of us at [___]! Over Winter Break you generously reviewed our semester one Spanish materials. As we were in the midst of writing and developing materials for semester two we were very grateful for your feedback. Now that materials are being printed and we are gearing up for our semester two launch we would like to say thank you.
[___] would like to feature you and your class as Champions of Kindness! The core beliefs and values of [___] Elementary are very much in line with our desire to assist in meeting the needs of PreK-2nd Grade learners in […] ISD. Your act of kindness caught our attention and the attention of […] (reporter for […]). […] would like to visit your class on Thursday, January 26th (10:00-10:15 am).
****************** E-MAIL 3 ENDS *
And this just happened today. Not only for my class, but also for all of the 2nd graders at our Campus. They had the opportunity of meeting the people who created the journals they had been using and hugging the mascot they use as main character for their materials.
It was just great. I only have words of appreciation for such an amazing present in return of such a small gesture. The kiddos were really impressed, even more impressed than the first time they saw their kindness journals (I have to say that my students were really astonished and willing to work with them from the very first moment. It was also love at first sight for them).
A big “THANK YOU” to all the people who have made it possible: [____] Team, High School students “Ambassadors of Kindness” who came with them, admins, teachers and students.
This is an example of why I always respond the same thing when some friends ask me what has made me decide to “go back” to (and to stay at, at least for a while) Elementary after so many years. There are a few main reasons, related to one word: RECOGNITION.
- Recognition, in the face of your students at the end of the day.
- Recognition, in the acts of kindness of the students you had last year who come and greet you each and every day even when you are not their teacher anymore.
- Recognition, in the growth you can perceive at the end of a year of hard work.
- Recognition, in small acts of appreciation that you can feel from other people that work with you or are around that make you realize that you can go ahead and keep on working, even when some shadows are at sight or things do not go in the direction you would like to.
I know I said “let’s make it short” but I could not help it. And I could keep on writing for a while. Let’s stop here.