Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Teaching Citizenship Part 2 Pay It Forward

Part 1 Pay it Forward (what can you do to make someones life better, Random act of Kindness)
How important is a single act of kindness? For most teens it can be the first step to becoming a better citizen.  How can we teach this and why should we bother?
Inspired by a teacher.... this is important.  We need to be real not just standing on a stage.  Powerful actions come from leaders who inspire.  The events of kindness will start small but once one kid realizes what can happen they all start to join in.
How many of you have seen the movie?
Read the book?
Pay it forward was a 2000 Movie starring
  • Helen Hunt
  • Kevin Spacey
  • Haley Joel Osment

The story was about a young teen boy who takes a Social Studies assignment to Heart.  His teacher Mr. St. Clair put this up on the Board THINK OF AN IDEA FOR WORLD CHANGE, AND PUT IT INTO ACTION.
When confronted by Trevor’s mother in the movie he describes the project this way...
"First of all, it's a voluntary assignment. For extra credit. If a student finds the idea overwhelming, he or she need not participate. Second of all, what I want is for the students to re-examine their role in the world, and think of ways one person can make a difference. It's a very healthy exercise."

Trevor’s idea was as follows
"You see, I do something real good for three people. And then when they ask how
they can pay it back, I say they have to Pay It three more people. Each. So, nine people get helped. Then those people have to do twenty-seven." He turned on the calculator, punched in a few numbers. "Then it sort of spreads out, see, to eighty-one, then two hundred forty-three, then seven hundred twenty-nine, then two thousand, one hundred eighty-seven. See how big it gets?" 
This is how I start to imprint citizenship on my Grade 8 Students.  In November before the winter holiday season we as a group (140) students sit and watch Pay It Forward.  In the 3 years that we have been doing this at Sargent Park the movie still pulls at my heart.  Students watch the movie, brainstorm ideas that can be their random acts of kindness.

140 x 1 is 140 acts of kindness if people kept on doing or thinking about these acts over a period of time they would be sustained.  (Not exponentially like in the movie but increased non the less)  Students have 2 weeks to complete their act of kindness.  They are expected to write about it at their blogs and to document their act somehow;
    • picture
    • movie
    • note
     Every set of students provides a different set of solutions to this assignment.  The first year we did this was the year of the snow storm over the Winter break.  1 out of 3 students decided that shoveling the snow was their act of kindness, not someone else’s walk or driveway but their own.  Disappointing yes but still a first step.  In the next years students chose to do more interesting acts of kindness.  They searched out opportunities to do work in the community to make lives better.  Students chose to

    In the two years that have followed less students have done the babysitting/chore tasks and looked for larger ones. Every year it continues to get better.  this year we had one group of girls go and sing carols at a local supermarket.  It was amazing.  The girls caroling raised $210 in 90 minutes
      The girls did an amazing job.  When we took them to Siloam they were welcomed and admired by the adults who run the shelter.  The girls were gracious and enjoyed their trip.  Yet on the car ride home the conversation they were having demonstrated to me that they still "did not get it".  The larger picture of poverty and why we were doing this assignment had not yet sunk in.  They are amazing kids, and are on the road to being a better citizen but still have a distance to go.

      During this assignment I was interviewd on the radio.  The local public broadcaster CBC was having a Pay It Forward Day.  They asked me questions about the project and why we do it.  Here is the interview.  

      Some things I remember from the interview are being asked do other teachers do this? I answered... I am not sure? I do know this our parents are proud of their children doing these acts of kindness.  Lets just imagine some numbers.  In my school division there are:
        • 2307 grade 7 students in the Winnipeg School Division
        • 2295 grade 8 students in Winnipeg School Division (Sargent Park is only 6%)
        • 4602 both in the Winnipeg School Division
        • 2535 grade 9 in the Winnipeg School Division
      That is approximately 7000 for 3 grades in one division.  If one out of every 10 students or 10% were to do a “Pay it forward” act of kindness that would be 700 students for one division alone.  If you factor in the Province there are 180 000 students. If 1% did this project that would be 1800 students doing Random Acts of Kindness!.  
      In the audience at the conference where I gave this keynote there were 500 teachers  and each with at least 30 students each. That is 15000 students... imagine if get the picture.

      If we could plan to do Pay it forward in December 2011 that would really bring to light the notion of Citizenship and the potential of you to the public eye. If you are interested in doing this next year email me and I will start a wiki where we can collect all the stories of kids making a difference in their communities.  If you want more information about Pay It Forward you can go to these two websites.

      Pay it forward Movement 
      Pay it forward foundation

      This is a great project for teachers to promote the goodness of teens.  Teens can be helpful, fantastic and amazing.  These are the stories we need to get out not the ones the news shows often of teens violence and apathy.

      This is the first step. The students get into the “Mood” by doing this act of Kindness.  This is the first responsibility that brings about better citizenship.  Doing good things just BECAUSE.  Not for money or attention just because it is right to help others who need help.  This activity  bridges nicely into the second project.... 25 cents a day.


      College Papers said...

      Its a nice post.Thanks for sharing.

      Maxine said...

      Thank you so much for sharing this incredible idea. Of course I am going to carve in time for us to carry out the pay it forward project this semester. I'll keep you posted. I am grateful for educators like you keeping the fire alive!