Celebrate Kindness

Have you ever thrown kindness around like confetti? I highly recommend it. Spreading kindness definitely radiates joy when it is freely shared. And it is truly a joy to celebrate the virtue of kindness in a school community.

This is my third article about my experience establishing a kindness initiative at my school. I will highlight three ways to celebrate kindness. Let’s get this party started!

Kindness Ambassadors bring lots of laughter to the celebration of kindness. Last year was my first year leading a group of fifteen eighth graders who are affectionately known as the legendary Kindness Ambassadors. Their goal was to inspire kindness throughout the school.

Friday Fun Messages are one way they worked toward their goal. Since health protocols did not allow students to mix in different grade levels last year, the ambassadors created weekly videos to share messages with the school. In the messages, students chose Bible verses about kindness and shared heartfelt reflections. They also led the students in prayer and always ended the message with a couple of jokes. During the season of Advent, the ambassadors created daily messages that I put together in a Google Slides presentation as a digital Advent calendar. Every message included Advent Acts of Kindness for all the students to participate in to prepare their hearts for Christmas.

The ambassadors strived to be role models for the school community as they volunteered throughout the school year. They enjoyed random acts of kindness such as passing out green necklaces on St. Patrick’s Day for middle school students and hiding plastic Easter eggs for the kindergarten students. Helping out with the red Ribbon Week festivities and Operation Christmas Child are some of the many ways they inspired kindness. I am extremely proud of their efforts.

Kindness Ambassadors are the perfect leaders for a school Kindness Rally. Rallies are already tons of fun for students, but when kindness is thrown into the mix, there could be smiles for miles. Hopefully, health protocols will allow assemblies to take place once again, and students can gather to listen to the ambassadors talk about why they believe in kindness and why it is important to our school. After that, everyone present can take part in a Kindness Pledge. Here is a pledge that I wrote:

Be the light! Be, be the light! This was a very popular cheer at the kindness rally that I led at our school a couple of years ago. Students of all ages enjoyed raising the roof with these happy words. Students could also be led in a cheer competition with each other by chanting, We’ve got kindness, yes we do! We’ve got kindness, how ‘bout you?

Kind Knight Nominations are another highlight of my school Kindness Rallies. The name of the award matches our school mascot, but the title could easily be changed. Several weeks before the rally, students were given the opportunity to nominate other students to be recognized for their kindness. The form that I created for my students included space to name the students they wished to nominate and to explain why they were chosen. At the assembly, nominations from every grade level were randomly chosen and read for all to appreciate. It was quite an honor for students to be recognized by their peers and they were also given a free dress pass.

Why not extend the celebration of kindness to your school families? Family Kindness Knights are an exciting way to invite everyone to join in the fun. I created this event so that the entire school community could come together for a memorable experience of fun and fellowship. We went all out for the purpose of kindness by sharing dinner and dessert, painting kindness tiles, and participating in S.T.R.E.A.M. (science, technology, religion, art, math) activities. Did I forget to mention that there was also a D.J.? Next time we have this event, I hope to include kindness to the community by adding a non-perishable food collection for those in need.

Creating a kindness mural was definitely a memorable way to showcase the importance of kindness at our school. At the event, students, parents, faculty, and staff painted kindness tiles that were professionally installed in our school lunch area. I provided guidelines for designing the tiles so that they included kind messages, Bible verses, and inspiring artwork.

If you already have a family science night or a S.T.R.E.A.M. event at your school, why not include opportunities for kindness in your planning? For example, we had a Chia Pet making station complete with googly eyes for decorating cups of soil with a smiley face. After all, it is good to be kind to living things and to help them to grow.

Here is an example of the passport for participating in the activities. It was made by an amazing teacher named Colleen, who dressed up as a mad scientist complete with dry ice in a beaker and spoke about the scientific research on the positive impact of acts of kindness.

It was definitely kind of our teachers to volunteer to have a booth with a fun activity for families to enjoy on a Friday evening. It was also kind of our middle school students to volunteer to facilitate the activities. Additionally, there were kind administrators who supervised the tile painting and visited with families. Last, but not least, it was very kind of the parents who volunteered to help with the check in process and the passing out of tiles. I can’t wait to have another event like this again because it was full of joy!

I hope that my sharing about the Kindness Ambassadors, Kindness Rallies, and Family Kindness Knight has encouraged you to celebrate more kindness in your school community. In life I like to think of going with the flow, specifically the Holy Spirit flow. By praying, relying, and cooperating with the Holy Spirit, the kindness ideas just seem to radiate like confetti.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

Be Virtuous and Be Kind

Virtues are a treasure. St. Agnes certainly elevates the pursuit of living a virtuous life with these words of wisdom. She was a young martyr who demonstrated incredible faith and courage. We are also called to be saints who strive to continually grow in grace and virtue.

Virtues are the focus of my second article about establishing a kindness initiative at my school. If you are like me, you hope that your students will discover endless ways to be kind. Having a virtue of the month program provides fresh perspectives on how to choose kindness. For example, if you teach the virtue of courage, you can inspire students to have the courage to be kind when they would otherwise be too shy or afraid. 

Each virtue of the month is explored and highlighted in a variety of ways. Lessons include reading and discussing Bible stories and reflecting on Bible verses about each virtue. Students in several grade levels created Google Slides presentations which explained how each virtue inspires kindness. The projects included in the presentations ranged from writing poems about the virtues to filming skits about the virtues. My eighth grade students participated in a generosity project where they researched the impact of being generous and reflected on a daily log of generous deeds. Students enjoyed sharing the monthly virtue assignments with their peers. 

Digital Posters are another way to showcase the virtue of the month. It was a joy to collaborate with a parent volunteer to put together a resource for our families. Posters included inspiring quotes and tips for incorporating more of the virtue in family life. Here is an example:

I have put together three collections of virtues that correspond with the kindness themes that I shared in my previous article. Every virtue is connected to a Bible verse specifically chosen to inspire students. Here is the link to the lists:


At this point in the article, you may be asking yourself, What exactly is a virtue anyway?  The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines virtue as a habitual and firm disposition to do the good. I tell my students that virtues are holy habits that help us to thrive. 

I love that the first three Hail Mary prayers of the Rosary focus on an increase of faith, hope, and love. St. Paul reminds us how important it is to be kind as we live out the greatest of all virtues.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 

1 Corinthians 13:13

Rejoice and Be Kind

Be kind and merciful. Let no one ever come to you without coming away better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness. – St. Teresa of Calcutta

This quote by one of my favorite saints has definitely inspired me as a person and a teacher. We are truly called to spread God’s love and kindness wherever we go every day of our lives. The best teacher of all time, Jesus, taught us the Great Commandment to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Choosing to be kind deepens our relationship with God and others as we put our faith into action.

A few years ago, several students and parents expressed interest in having a Kindness Initiative at our school. I volunteered to lead this endeavor and it has become a true passion of mine. Would you like to cultivate more kindness at your school, but don’t know where to start? I will share three inspirational themes to set you on your way.

Every theme includes a slogan, a Bible verse, and even a theme song. Music makes the movement a celebration. After all, spreading kindness is full of joy!

Having a new theme every year has provided a framework for planning and has kept the idea of spreading kindness fresh and interesting for my students. I’m very fortunate to have a talented graphic designer at my school in the marketing department who creates beautiful designs of the themes. Her designs are brought to life on banners and T-shirts for all to enjoy. I enjoyed creating the following logos on the canva.com website.

Theme: Shine With Kindness

This is an example of a logo you can create on canva.com.

Bible Verse: Matthew 5:16

Therefore let your light shine before others; that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Heavenly Father.

Song: Lights Shine Bright by Toby Mac

Theme: Thrive With Kindness

This is an example of a logo you can create on canva.com.

Bible Verse: Galatians 5:22-23

…the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…

Song: Thrive by Casting Crowns

Theme: Be Brave and Be Kind

This is an example of a logo you can create on canva.com.

Bible Verse: 1 Corinthians 16:13-14

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.

Song: Love by We Are Messengers

This is my first article about my experience establishing a Christian kindness initiative at my school. I hope that you are as excited about instilling this important virtue in the lives of young people, as I am. Let us pray and embrace the love of the Holy Spirit as we seek to serve the Lord with kindness.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.

And kindle in them the fire of your love.

Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.

And you will renew the face of the earth.

God Loves You

“God loves each one of us as if there was only one of us.”  Saint Augustine 

Recently my fifth grade students reflected on how incredible God’s love is for each one of us. They also reflected on Psalm 93:4:

“Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea, the LORD on high is mighty.”  

I gave my students the opportunity to share some of their favorite parts of God’s Creation- the Pacific Ocean, the Grand Canyon, hummingbirds, giraffes, each one of us! We took time to ponder how amazing it is that the Creator of the Universe knows and loves each one of us completely. We paused in the middle of our discussion to just close our eyes and feel God’s love in our hearts.  

After that I passed around a ball and each student shared a time when they felt God’s love recently. It was a lovely opportunity for my students to witness to each other. I shared how I felt God’s love when I was sharing a meal with my family. They had all kinds of experiences: 

“while watching the sunset at the ocean, after Communion at mass, while running on the soccer field…”  

This beautiful discussion prompted each student to write about his or her experience. They wrote and decorated a fish cut out to display their loving experience and to inspire one another. I feel God’s love every time I walk by the bulletin board.

Mightier than the waves of the sea is His love for you.  Amen!


I’ve Got the Joy of Jesus in my Heart

“…for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10

Sharing the joy of the Lord with your students will bring lots of smiles to your classroom. I recently told my second graders that the joy of having Jesus as my friend fills my heart and gives me strength each day. We reflected on how important it is to celebrate our friendship with Jesus and to turn to Him whenever we feel like we need strength.

I decided to bring the lesson alive with a delightful game. The goal of the game is simply to make your classmates smile. One volunteer comes to the front of the classroom and I tell everyone to “Wipe the smile off your face.” Then the volunteer smiles, laughs, dances, or does something funny to convince the whole class to smile. We clap and thank each volunteer for their efforts.  With all the laughter this game brings it is easy to see why it has become a favorite light-hearted pastime. 

 At the beginning and ending of the game we read Nehemiah 8:10 together to memorize the verse and to connect it to the game.   Sometimes we recall that joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit.  Finally,  we close with a prayer thanking God for the gift of His joy!


Hearts and Sunshine

Are you ready to transform the bare walls of your classroom into vibrant works of art? A beautiful faith-filled bulletin board can place your students in the right direction at the start of the school year. The two boards that I’m sharing today are designed to inspire good deeds in a caring classroom community.

“Let your light shine before others that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven.” Matthew 5:16 is the inspiration for the bulletin board that I created for my fourth graders last year. I started our discussion of this verse by asking my students what the song This Little Light of Mine is all about.  It is a favorite song that is sung at our weekly school mass. I also asked my students what they notice about the saints and their shining halos. My students seemed excited to think about how we shine with the light of God’s love when we love God and others. We all have the opportunity to shine like the saints!
Next, I gave each of my students a strip of yellow construction paper to write on and decorate. They wrote about a few good deeds that they can do at school and at home that give glory to God. I arranged all of the strips to create one giant sun with rays of light. I added a few extra rays of sunshine and the display turned out beautifully.

It was almost a year ago when we celebrated the canonization of St. Teresa of Calcutta. Her feast day is September 5th which coincides perfectly with the beginning of the school year. After sharing the story of her amazing life with my fifth graders I told them to ponder her words, “Do small things with great love.” I gave them time to think, pair and share about what this means to them. Their ten year old wisdom was lovely:
“I can’t do something as big as feeding all of the hungry people in the world, but I can do little things such as donating canned food to a food bank.”
“I can put my whole heart into the good deeds that I do for my family.”
“Many little acts of kindness can add up into something really great!”
After our sweet discussion I gave my students construction paper hearts to write about the little things they can do with great love at school and at home. My students also decorated their hearts and they looked beautiful. I arranged the hearts next to a drawing of St. Teresa and I added a caption from 1 John 4:7. Finally, I traced the drawing of St. Teresa from one of my favorite blogs called Look to Him and Be Radiant:
I was certainly inspired by reading the hearts and sunshine in the fourth and fifth grade hallways of my school. The truth and beauty of their words and artwork were a joyful sight. I hope that these projects bring inspiration to you, too!

Inspiring Angels

Blog Angel
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.  1Thessalonians 5:11
The beginning of the school year is such an exciting time for all! It is the perfect time to try new procedures for positive classroom management. I’m happy to share an incentive that worked very well for my fourth grade students last year.
On the first day of class I introduced a beautiful little angel statue that I found at a Catholic gift shop.  I told my students that during class I would be looking for a very polite student to be recognized as the “Class Angel” and that he or she would keep the angel on his or her desk until the next religion lesson.  Of course, I played up the whole concept by pointing out students who were listening well, or always raising their hands as possible candidates.   At the end of the lesson I waited until everyone was quiet before I made the big announcement and told everyone to clap for this student.   I was sure to explain the specific reasons why I chose a particular student.
During the following lesson I told the Class Angel that she would be observing her classmates during religion class and that she would be choosing the next student.  This procedure quickly became a lovely way to encourage my students to make good choices during our lessons and to notice the good behavior of their fellow classmates.  After a couple of weeks I decided to add a second angel so that more students could be recognized during each lesson.   I also kept a class list to mark off which students had been chosen and I shared this list with the Class Angel to make sure that no one was left out.
There are three reasons why I love this incentive.  First, seeing the angels on the desks is a positive reminder to act like an angel.  Second, the angels remind my students of the presence of our own Guardian Angels who are always inspiring us to be good.   Third, the smiles on my students’ faces while one of their classmates explain why they were chosen always makes me smile.
We can always find ways to encourage one another and build each other up.  We can always give our students opportunities to do the same.  I hope you’ve found some inspiration for an exciting new school year with your own Class Angels!


Happy Highlights From NCEA

NCEA (2)
Professional Development Sessions
The NCEA 2017 provided four exciting days of professional development sessions to choose from. With so many fabulous choices, I relied on the Holy Spirit to guide me in the way I should go.   What I loved about my two favorite presenters is that they were very down to earth and honest. They just spoke from the heart and their words were wonderful!
Jenni Ellis inspired me with her courage and wisdom during her session entitled Transform Your School Through Prayer. She is currently the Head of School of Sophia Academy in Atlanta, Georgia, but will soon be starting a new adventure traveling around the U.S. speaking to schools. Here are a few of the bright ideas I appreciate from her presentation:
  • Her #1 prayer, “Lord, please bring the right people to my school.”
  • She had her school consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Jesus and Mary.
  • The whole school says the Divine Mercy Prayer at 3:00 every afternoon.
  • She provides “time away” faith nourishment for her faculty.
  • Prayer doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s not about the execution, but the Spirit.
Katie Prejean McGrady delighted me with her passion and humor during her session entitled Ever Ancient, Ever New: Teaching Truth to an Apathetic Generation. She is a theology teacher, writer and speaker from Louisiana.   Here are a few of the bright ideas I appreciate from her presentation:
  • The best part of teaching is the relationships and interactions.
  • What’s your mission?
  • He who has a “why” can bear any “how.”
  • The reason is Jesus.
  • Evangelization is the bringing of the Good News of Jesus Christ into every human situation.
  • Invite people to encounter Jesus by building relationships.
NCEA Lunch and Learn Event
I enjoyed a tasty lunch while participating in an Edcamp experience. I hadn’t heard of Edcamp before, and now I know that they are “organic, participant-driven professional learning experiences for educators across the country and worldwide!” Teachers shared what they were interested in learning about and several groups were created based on our desires. It was lovely to speak to teachers from Louisiana, Vermont and Chicago about Catholic Identity.   Here is a link to learn more about Edcamp:
The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis
Visiting the Basilica reinforced the message that I am part of a family of faith that is extremely beautiful! The incredible design and effort that went into the building of that church is beyond amazing! With God all things are possible!
The last highlight I’ll share is how happy I am to have started a Twitter account at the conference.   This has already helped me to feel connected to some of the amazing people I met at the NCEA.   Thankfully, I can continue to be blessed by the inspiring words of others.  Yay!
Thank you, Jesus for the amazing experience I had at NCEA 2017!

The Gift of Attending NCEA

It really was a tremendous gift.  I feel so loved by God!   I’m extremely grateful for the beautiful adventure and the joyful inspiration… Thank you, Jesus!
This is what I want to keep in my heart:
All over America there are visible angels teaching and doing the Lord’s work.   How inspiring it was to be in the presence of over 8,000 like-minded, courageous educators!  We are all doing our part to build up the Kingdom.   Meeting several charming and compassionate educators was a real treat.  We bonded by sharing the joys and challenges of our vocation.   It made realize that lately I had begun to feel a little insignificant or even a bit lowly as a religion teacher.  No more!  I’m serving my Almighty God and Father!   I belong to a big, beautiful Catholic family of faith!   I’m spreading the Good News of the Gospel to my students!   Faith formation!  What work could possibly be more important?
Celebrating mass and listening to the keynote speaker on the first day of the conference was such a joy!  Jonathan Doyle encouraged me and strengthened my heart for my vocation.   He ignited my confidence for doing the Lord’s work.  I really appreciate what he shared in his keynote address called, “Finding Purpose in the Education Vocation.” Here are my notes on a few points from his talk as I heard them:
It is no accident that you are a Catholic teacher.   God knew from all eternity that you would have certain skills, talents and passion for service of young people and the world.   If he called you into it, he will sustain you.
You cannot do a supernatural task with only natural resources.
The way is a person.   Stay close to Jesus.
God is not done with you yet!  You have no idea what you’re capable of!
In the time that you have left, will you please do all the good that you can?
Be a saint!
Jonathan’s words definitely kindled my passion and pride for what I do!  I’m reading his newest book called Tools and Fuels: How Catholic teachers can become Saints, Beat Burnout and Save the World and I highly recommend it.  Thankfully his entire keynote address is available here:

Blog NCEA 2017

Encouraging Messages From Jonathan Doyle’s Keynote Address

Jonathan is an internationally renowned speaker on Catholic education. He has spoken to over 300,000 Catholic teachers to date, 400 schools subscribe to his weekly online staff formation program in Catholic identity called, “Going Deeper” and he has produced a wide variety of resources to help Catholic teachers.

My Favorite End of the Year Game

The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”
Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”   1 Samuel 3:10
Your students will be totally engaged and smiling when you play the “Samuel Game” with them.   Start by sharing one of the stories about Samuel in the Bible: 1 Samuel 3:3-10, 19.   Tell your students that you will be asking them what God is teaching them today before you begin reading.  Be sure to use your best storyteller voice to emphasize how the Lord was calling Samuel by name.   Discuss how Samuel learned to recognize the voice of God and to listen to Him.   Remind your students that praying involves talking and listening to God.   Ask your students how they listen to God.  Discuss how summertime is an excellent time of year to slow down and spend time peacefully listening to God speak to our hearts.  It is also a wonderful time of year to read the Bible and listen to God speak to us through Scripture.
Next, introduce the “Samuel Game.”   Have a student volunteer come to the front of the room and turn his or her back to the class.   The volunteer is like Samuel in the story and he or she will listen while another student calls his or her name.   Silently choose a student to come to the center of the room and call out the volunteer’s name.   The student can try to disguise his or her voice and the volunteer must guess without looking.   Set the stage for success by telling your class the expectations for the game.   Every student needs to be quiet so the volunteer can listen carefully.   I usually pass out a Bible verse sheet to color to make sure everyone is engaged while waiting for their turn.   Everyone will want a chance to guess and to call out, so be sure to plan ahead.   Let the laughter begin!
A fun twist to the game is to surprise your volunteer when you are the one calling out his or her name.   One year I played the part of Samuel and it was an absolute joy to guess all of my students’ voices.  There’s a special bond in the classroom when you realize that you’ve been listening to each other for almost five days a week for nine months.   I’ve played this game with students in grades 3-5 and it’s always a hit!
At the end of the game it’s a good idea to recap the message of the Bible story:  Take time to listen to the voice of God calling you by name.   As a religion teacher celebrating the end of the year with her students, I hear the message in my heart of how blessed I am to have taught such wonderful students.   Rejoice and teach!