At Wilson School, Grade 3 teacher Lynn Kraus reads "Chrysanthemum" by Kevin Henkes whose title character is teased about her name.
“Chrysanthemum wilted,” Kraus says to her students. “I want you to think about whether respect is happening here.”
The third graders later break into small group discussions after watching a short video that tracks an act of kindness from one person to the next in a community, just one of many lessons and activities across the Westfield Public School District as students and staff observed the Week of Respect.
In each of the district’s 10 schools, the emphasis was on the meaning of respect and the different ways students and staff show it. For example, Franklin School previewed the week with a colorful assembly focusing on the Six Pillars of Character and "The 7 Habits of Happy Kids" by Sean Covey. Each student donned a tee shirt (in red, orange, yellow, green, blue or purple, depending on grade level) with one of the six pillars written on the back – Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring and Citizenship.
Kindergartners in Joellen Surace's class listened to "Have You Filled a Bucket Today: A Guide to Daily Happiness For Kids" by Carol McCloud. The book's central theme focuses on an invisible bucket we all carry and the chances we are given to fill someone else's bucket with kindness and respect. The youngsters filled the kindergarten bucket with kind thoughts "so that we all feel safe and respected," said Mrs. Surace. They wrapped up the lesson singing and dancing to "Try a Little Kindness" from Sesame Street.
Tamaques 2nd graders explored empathy with the use of a shoebox, a pencil and some crayons. "Empathy means you put yourself in someone else's shoes," said school counselor Marybeth Herits. "You really try to understand how they are feeling." Using different colors for different emotions, the students illustrated how a hypothetical child who is struggling with math might be feeling.
Intermediate students at Edison and Roosevelt were treated to a powerful presentation as Dr. Paul Wichansky – who was born with cerebral palsy and hearing loss – talked about the transformative nature of kindness and the importance of positivity.
“Respect is something we practice daily in Westfield Public Schools. So we called this week the “Week of Extra Respect,” says Superintendent Dr. Margaret Dolan. “I am thankful that we have so many caring teachers, administrators and other staff who model respectful behavior every day and who routinely incorporate lessons focusing on empathy, responsibility, fairness, and other characteristics that reinforce the district’s mission ‘to educate all students to reach their highest potential as productive, well-balanced and responsible citizens who respect individual differences and diversity in an every changing world.’”