Spread Some Smiles

I haven’t written in a while for a number of reasons. The end of the quarter has been filled with many obligations, complications, and distractions, both professional and personal. And, to be honest, I’ve been a little keyboard-shy after receiving some criticisms regarding the content of this blog. What I have concluded is that I am fully invested in what we are trying to accomplish with the ARCTIC Zone. Blogging about my experiences not only brings me joy, but it challenges me in a way that I believe is making me better. A better educator. A better writer. A better communicator about project-based learning. A better example for my students.

I’m seeing more than ever a growing need for kindness in our world. It’s something we preach to our students on the regular, but the truth is: we could all use a little more compassion in our lives. We can all work to spread a few more smiles, and we could all benefit from a little more kindness sent our way.

I’ve seen a classroom activity shared several times by other teachers that I have always wanted to incorporate into my own class. I call it the “Hot Seat,” and I just started with it a couple weeks ago. One student sits in a chair with his back to the whiteboard for three full minutes while the rest of the class fills the whiteboard with positive thoughts and words about that student. That’s all. At the end of the three minutes, the student turns around to read what has been written about him.

The first few times we did it, the students in the hot seat expressed a confusing nervousness that crept inside them during those three long minutes despite the fact that they knew everything written had to be positive because “that’s what the teacher said.” Several students have echoed these sentiments offering worries about the whiteboard remaining empty because they fear others will not have anything nice to say about them. Is your heart breaking, too?

Not only that, but there was one student who tried to get away from the whiteboard as quickly as possible after reading her own notes because she was so uncomfortable seeing the many positive things written about her. That established a discussion regarding the following question – Why is it so difficult to receive a compliment? My students came to the following conclusions:

a.) Society suggests that by accepting a compliment, you are agreeing with what was said about you, and by doing so, you exude an arrogance that is frowned upon by others. So in an attempt to appear less conceited, we brush off compliments as though we disagree or couldn’t possibly accept the sincerity in them.

b.) Society also wants us to be strong, independent individuals who don’t need to rely on the praise of others to lift us up. By accepting that praise, we appear weak, as though we depend on those words to get us through.

c.) We don’t compliment each other enough. This could be for various reasons. One suggestion was that by complimenting another person, you risk sending the wrong message, as if in order to offer praise, it must come with some sort of strings attached. Regardless of the reason, because we don’t compliment each other enough, we have no clue how to receive said compliments. Ain’t that the devastating truth?

How do we shift this kind of thinking? Instead, let’s teach our students and ourselves that

a.) Confidence is a beautiful quality.

b.) Leaning on each other at times is essential.

c.) Spreading kindness to others is our duty.

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3 thoughts on “Spread Some Smiles

  1. I love the conclusions your students came to regarding the aversion to compliments. They show wonderful depth of thought and an incredible perception about the world in which they live.


  2. Wendtland, Jason says:

    Hey Ali, This is a great post to read more than once. Tonight it serves as a reminder to me of what I can be doing with my students that is not just all about academics. School has to be so much more than that if we truly want our students to be the best they can be. I love that you have these conversations with students—that is a piece that has become so lost in our elementary schools. We used to have more flexibility to have morning meetings and to take off into a direction other than the curriculum when the moment called for it. Now that pressure to keep pushing forward has become the new norm and there’s that fear that you’d better not get behind in what you’re teaching. We try to do more and more teaching which, it turns out, leads to less and less teaching of those social/emotional skills students truly need. I’m so relieved that the Arctic Zone is paving the way and making this accessible to kids. I really should be saying this more often than I have… just thank you so much for recognizing what your students need most and then doing something about it. We are blessed to have Jack as a part of the Arctic Zone!

    I do hope you enjoyed your break!


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