Archive for the ‘Kindness’ Category

“But we will be a family. We will make a difference.”

Being a connected educator is both a blessing and a learning challenge. There is so much wonder, positivity and amazing ideas that are shared; at the same time, one can easily feel like they are not up to par with other educators. Therefore, with my kids in mind, as I prepare to return to the classroom as a high school English teacher next year, I felt compelled to share some of my thoughts with my future students.

A letter to you, my student

I may not have a perfect classroom.
I may not have all the flashy colours.
I may not be able to brag about all the free things I can get for you guys.
I may not be able to offer you a 1:1 experience.
I may not have all the best flexible seating.
I may not be able to control school funds and how they are spent on you.
I may not be able to post my classroom to a Pinterest hall of fame.
I may not be able to give you access to every possibility imaginable…

I will give you my heart.
I will share joy on a daily basis.
I will show empathy, compassion and kindness.
I will create learning adventures.
I will push you harder than ever before.
I will believe in you.
I will let you know you matter.
I will always be there with you.
I will help you change the world.

You see,
We may not make headlines.
We may not get 25 000 likes or followers.
We may not be cited in research.

But we will be a family. We will make a difference. We are in for the ride of our lives.

I can’t wait to meet you and begin our learning journey together. You are amazing!

Mr. Nowak


Do what you can

In the end, only kindness matters...


Yet again, another horrific story fills the feeds of social media and news reports. Another mass shooting at a high school leaves many asking, why? As the story unfolded, I found myself truly shaken like never before.

I will remember that haunting Wednesday evening for as long as I will live. I am standing in my kitchen washing dishes, my daughter eating her supper, with the news playing on the television, I find myself trying to explain to my seven year old what is happening in Florida. And as I start my explanation, my voice starts to quiver, goose bumps form on my arms and tears roll down my cheeks. How do I explain such acts of violence and hate to such an innocent child? How do I make sense of something, when I myself have a hard time wrapping my mind around it?

As the days go by, as more details come through; emotions of hurt, hatred and anger start taking over communities all across the world. This tragedy becomes another opportunity for division, for political debates and for heated exchanges. But we must rise beyond that. In this time of grief, we need to come together. We cannot let hate and anger take over our emotions. We need to turn our emotions to kindness, to hope…to action.

Everyone has a story; everyone has a path that influences the way they feel. Let’s never forget to know these stories, to empower these voices, to listen to the truths that need to be spoken. More than ever, we need to focus on the kids before us. We need to make sure they are loved. We need to make sure they know that they matter.

A good friend, @TaraMartinEDU, shared a post this week call Unconditional. (  She pushes readers and educators to reflect on their own perceptions and reminds us that we need to love without condition. We cannot have students walking our halls knowing that one mistake or one bad choice will leave them lonely and isolated. We cannot let them feel abandoned. We need to uplift them, to know them, to be there for them. Are we all ready to accept her challenge and simply love our students? Can we all make sure that they know they matter?

As I still try to make sense of what happened, as my heart aches for what others are going through, I know I must always try to be a beacon of light. I must lead with kindness if I want my students to believe in good. I need to encourage us to stand together, to be united, not in our silence, but in love and in hope.

We need to talk about it. We cannot forget it. We need to act on it. Policies must change, laws must change. But more than anything, our hearts must change. You see, we can change our policies as a first step. We can safeguard buildings with metal detectors, security screenings and other preventative measures. But if we want lasting change, if we want to safeguard this world for our children, let us change our hearts. Let’s be open to kindness, to compassion, to empathy, to forgiveness. Let’s be open to love, to friendship, to gratitude, to peace.

So tonight I will hold my daughters a little bit tighter. I will be thankful for every extra minute I have with them. I will strive to share a little bit more love, because I know that they need it and that is what they deserve.

And as I remember this tragedy, I want to be left with stories of hope. So I share with you a powerful reminder of kindness, of heroism, of leadership. A story shared by Journalist John Gray:

scottbeigelThis is Scott Beigel, a Geography teacher at the high school in Florida where a gunman opened fire on a peaceful Wednesday afternoon. When the shots rang out he did exactly as he was trained to do, get his kids secure in the classroom and lock the door.

But Scott did something else. When he saw other children running in horror from the gunfire down the hallway he put his own life at risk by opening his classroom door and ushering them in. He saved them. Before he could secure his own life however he was hit with a bullet and killed. Make no mistake he traded his life for theirs.

In his last moments on this earth Scott Beigel taught his students the most incredible lesson any of us can ever learn. He taught them that he loved them. Let us live Scott’s lesson, let us show others that we do indeed love them, unconditionally.

Be kind. Always.


My #oneword

Education is about learning, about change, about love but most of all, about kids. My last few years as a teacher, I have been privileged to find my voice, define my purpose and connect with so many innovative, creative and passionate educators from around the world. Last year’s #oneword challenge was difficult for me; trying to simplify one’s goal, one’s essence to a single word seemed like a daunting task. As I have been reading the many #oneword posts from educators across North America, I cannot help but be inspired. This year’s #oneword came with no hesitation: BE KIND.
(Okay, for the perfectionists like me, it is technically two words, but I do like to challenge the status quo, so I am permitting myself to think outside the box.)

Kindness has been a life-altering choice for me. I have had the honour of working with several classrooms across the world on kindness collaborations: from stories about kindness, to songs, discussions, to even choosing how we can make a difference by spreading kindness in our communities. There is so much negativity present in our everyday lives, so much judgement, hatred and jealousy. It just seems so natural to try to counter all those feelings with more positivity and kindness.

So as every day passes in 2018, I want to remember to:

Be kind…and listen to others. To know their stories, know their passions, understand who they are.

Be kind…and celebrate others. People need to feel important, noticed, cared for, that they matter.

Be kind…and share time. Time is the most precious gift you can share with others.

Be kind…and inspire. Inspire others to see, talk and live kindness and love.

Be kind…and smile. Be happy for yourself, share happiness with others. The world needs more happy.

Be kind…and dare. Dare to challenge, to transform to be different. Dare to be you.

Be kind…and dream. Dream of better possibilities, dream of change and dream of a better world.

Be kind…and take care of myself. As much as I need to be there for others, I need to take care of myself as well.

Be kind…and share love. Build relationships, care for, empathize and be present for kids.

So as I reflect on 2018 and think about what many adventures it holds for me, I feel empowered to know that it will be filled with positivity and kindness. For the longest time, Ellen DeGeneres has been a role model to me. As she strives not only to help others, but to promote kindness, I feel it is our duty to do the same. So every day that I get to spend with my students, with colleagues, with family, I feel it is fitting to always end it with “Be KIND to one another”. In the end, that is what matters. That is what will change the world and transform education.

“You can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.” – R.J. Palacio (Wonder)

Always choose kind.

Here are links to other amazing #oneword posts:
Keith Peters
Russ Shwartz
Lindsey Bohler
Todd Schmidt
Bethany Hill
Mandy Ellis
Jeff Kubiak