byMichael A. Caira, Jr., Principal,
With a new school year less than two weeks away, I am sure many of you are putting final touches on first day messages, professional development plans, and welcome back agendas. Setting the stage for a successful school year, starts the moment our teachers and staff walk into our welcome back meeting. Last year, which unbeknownst to me, would be my final year with the staff at the Henry E. Warren Elementary School in Ashland, served as the perfect example as to how one single initiative can create a climate of togetherness, positivity, and kindness.
The Warren School is an amazing place to grow, learn and teach. Our teachers and staff have adopted the core values of Being Kind, Safe, Respectful, and Responsible. These core values have been in place for over five years, and they are the pillars of a tremendous PBIS program. Teachers, students and families know the core values, recite the core values and take great pride in showing the core values daily. However excellent a school may be, there is always room to grow, and last year our community took part in a Twitter campaign called #180DaysOfKindness.
Originally meant to be a way for me, as building principal to be able to acknowledge the greatness of our school community, the #180DaysOfKindness campaign quickly became a tool for teachers, staff members, and parents to show appreciation for one another. The challenge given to staff was really quite simple. During our opening day professional development meeting, I informed the entire staff that beginning on the first day of school I would be challenging myself to say something kind each day. I would be posting my message on Twitter for all to see using the aforementioned “hashtag.” I acknowledged that not everyone had a Twitter account, but I encouraged our staff to join me.
That evening, with great pride, I noticed my Twitter followership begin to grow, as staff members took the leap. Our campaign was about more than just Twitter though, it was about showing appreciation to those around us and doing so in a public way. We didn’t need social media to do this, we only needed a push and a reminder that kindness truly does matter.
On day one when I woke up to begin our first day of school, I had received an email from our physical education teacher with the subject heading “180 Days of Kindness.” The email contained a quote, “You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!” ― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go! For the next 179 days of school each one of us started our day with a quote from Ms. McCarrick. When I walked down the halls to perform my yearly walk around on the first day, I noticed a bulletin board by the Dining Room for our guidance staff to post their 180 Days of Kindness, a chart outside a kindergarten classroom, a wall outside of a grade one classroom prepared to showcase kindness and several other ways in which our staff had made this initiative their own.
Amazingly it never slowed down! Throughout the year parents, teachers, students, even our superintendent jumped on board with our 180 Days of Kindness initiative. Our school was a wonderful place to teach and learn before we started, but something special happened when we started to truly acknowledge one another. As I wrapped up the year with an amazing group of teachers, students and parents, I took some time to scroll through my Twitter feed and look back at the various tweets. Not only did it serve the purpose of allowing me to acknowledge the great work of students, staff and parents, it also told a story of an incredible school year full of exciting learning opportunities, collaboration, and simply stated: kindness.
This year I begin a journey with a new faculty in an unfamiliar building. I will remain in the district of Ashland, and reunite with all of my former students, but it will be time to forge relationships with teachers and staff members. I am excited for 180 more days of spreading kindness and showing gratitude for the opportunity to be part of an amazing community. My hope is that the members of the David A. Mindess Elementary School will also join me in this initiative and that others will as well. The simple task of acknowledging one another for a job well done, and taking a moment to say something kind, can create not only a collegial atmosphere, but one that promotes collaboration.
Best of luck in your new school year, may it be filled with accomplishments, achievements, and memorable moments. Most of all, I hope you enjoy 180 Days of Kindness!
Michael A. Caira, Jr. is beginning his first year as the principal of the David A. Mindess Elementary School, serving students in grades three through five in Ashland, MA. Previously he spent four years as the principal of the Henry E. Warren Elementary School in Ashland. Caira has been an educator for sixteen years, having taught grades three and five, as well as serving as an assistant principal and special education coordinator. He is currently pursuing his Doctorate of Education from Boston College. Mike lives in Clinton, MA with his wife Kristen, and his two daughters Caroline (7) and Anna (4). You can follow Mike as he begins the next 180 Days of Kindness campaign on Twitter @ClockerTalk
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