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November 2016 upDATER - Big Ideas

Dear Parents and Guardians:
As we head into the long Thanksgiving weekend, I thought it the perfect time to update our school community on our kindness initiative.  While we have been stressing the importance of kindness at Dater for the past few years, it seems like the topic is becoming more relevant in our culture at large.  In fact, the iconic children's television show Sesame Street will be dedicating its entire upcoming 47th season to the issue of kindness.  This is in response to a national survey the show conducted on kindness and children that revealed almost 75% of parents and almost 80% of teachers admitted to often worrying that the world is an unkind place for children.  I encourage you to take the survey yourself.  You can access it here.   

In a recent interview, Sesame Street's senior vice-president of Content and Curriculum, Rosemarie Truglio,  explained the show's decision to focus on the use of kindness curriculum for the upcoming season.  She said, "So when we went out to talk to children and asked them, 'What is kindness?' They would say things like, 'You need to be nice to each other.' So it was very vague. We realized that we need to be explicit about the word kind and that kindness is about being mindful of what another person needs or wants."  

So what does that mean for Dater?  How are we explicitly teaching kindness?  In this newsletter, I would like to highlight three ways that our school is teaching kindness to students.  First, teachers and counselors are weaving kindness into every character education lesson about the 6 Pillars of Character.  Second, this year teachers are implementing the RULER curriculum to increase students' emotional intelligence.  This curriculum is supported by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence that strives to "use the power of emotions to create a more effective and compassionate society."  So far the students have learned about the first two anchors of emotional intelligence . They have created a class Charter to make explicit how they want to feel in their classrooms, and they have explored the Mood Meter to help them identify and label emotions.  Finally, our school continues to participate in the Certified Kind Classroom Challenge, which is part of the #choosekind campaign connected to the book Wonder by RJ Palacio.  Here is Ms. Palacio introducing the 2016-2017 challenge. Please watch closely.  At the 1:04 mark she mentions a school that had 25 Certified Kind classrooms in 2015-2016. That is Dater she is talking about!!! In fact, they were so impressed with Dater's participation that the publisher had invited me to write this blog last summer.

Finally, in this season of Thanksgiving, I would like to echo Ms. Truglio of Sesame Street when she says, "Kindness is also showing gratitude, being thankful, showing respect and having manners."  As an educator, I look for models whenever and wherever I can find them.  A book whose message is to "choose kind" and a television program whose mission is "helping kids grow smarter, stronger, and kinder" seems like two pretty solid models. 
Andrew Matteo