A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about the importance of teaching empathy in school. Many of you wrote to me personally and said that you agreed. Since that writing, I have read several articles with research that point out that students who learn empathy and kindness in school are better citizens. I saw all of those principles involving empathy and caring about others in action at a North Allegheny football game two weeks ago, and I am sharing the story with you in this blog.
As a coach and a teacher, I always wanted my students to be good role models and student leaders. It seems the North Allegheny Senior class has some students who have learned that lesson well. The week of the final home game of the season, the students sold pink T shirts at every school in the district, including elementary schools- ordering more and more shirts until they sold out for the final time- and the group donated over $5000 to the Glimmer of Hope Foundation. I worked security at that game, and I know I could have easily sold another 50 shirts at my post! One of my golf team members was in charge of this event, and he was thrilled to present the hefty check to the Foundation.
Additionally, the NA Cheerleaders put the word out to the school and the community that they were collecting gently used coats to be given to the Food Bank and homeless shelters. They rented a medium sized U-Haul truck and the community filled the ENTIRE TRUCK!
So, what lessons were learned, and who benefited? Students and supervising adults learned that organization makes everything run smoothly and that the probability of success is enhanced when organization is in place. Everyone involved with advertising learned how much work it is to spread the word and to get others to care about a cause. Students in the entire district learned what it feels like to be a part of something much bigger than just a class or a school, since the initiative for the pink shirts was district-wide. For one day and one game, everyone was connected to each other and to a greater cause. Those who donated the coats learned what it means to think about others as the cold weather approaches, and the cheerleaders learned that organizing a drive and helping others to give is a great contribution they can make to others in need. Also, the high school students taught the elementary students a lesson about giving. Everyone benefited- in the district and the community.
That football game was against North Hills, and NA won the game easily, and the crowd seemed to be so happy. I don't think it was just the score that buoyed the spirits. I think it was the good feeling within that comes from helping others.
Every community and church support causes like these two chosen by the NA students. I urge those of you who are educators to get your classes involved with a positive project. Your students will benefit from working together and lending a hand to others. And I know that you and your classes will be enriched by the experience of putting yourselves in the other person's shoes, and giving of yourselves. The season for giving will soon be upon us, but then, I think it is always that season. (A word to the wise- just make sure your principal agrees before you take on a class project!)
As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.
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Visit www.dederittman.com for more teaching ideas in Dede's new book, STUDENT TEACHING: THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER.