Monday, November 16, 2015

“I believe empathy is the most essential quality of civilization.” – Roger Ebert

Although summer seems like it was just last week, Thanksgiving and Christmas and Hanukkah are almost upon us.  At the high school where I taught for 35 years, Student Council made it so much fun to be a part of something bigger than one person, and not only to share with, but also to give to others.  I remember our canned food drives and Santa's Stocking projects with such positive feelings.  Our building (of around 1200-1600 students) often exceeded canned food drive goals of over 16,000 cans, which we packed up and donated to the local food bank. And for the Santa's Stocking project, homerooms were assigned one or two children to play "Santa" to; strict requirements were in place for families to receive this assistance.  Parents had to be out of work for at least two years, and children had to be under a certain age.  All of this was coordinated by the local food bank.  What students did not know was this: some of the recipients were among the student population in our own school building, with younger brothers and sisters in the middle schools and elementary schools who were also the recipients of gifts from our generous students and staff members. The Santa's Stocking mission was very successful at our building; in fact, the project was added to Student Council initiatives in our middle schools and high school as well. Thousands of children have received gifts through the years; kids that would have had no Christmas presents, but for the generosity of students who were guided by a caring and dedicated staff of teachers and administrators. 

School projects which include sharing and giving are so important.  They teach life lessons of empathy and kindness, as well as caring and compassion.  Students who experience the intrinsic glow and warmth of knowing they have made a difference will grow up to become citizens who understand the importance of charity. In a world that has gone crazy with barbarism and beheadings, kindness and caring are the intangibles that can make all of our lives better.

I urge all teachers to get your classes involved with a charity.  Work with a local food bank or hospital. Become part of a local church drive. Coats, blankets, and small everyday supplies like soap and toothpaste are always welcomed at homeless shelters. An easy an fun choice is to have a classroom mitten tree or a mini food drive.  Be sure to ask your administration first, but get your students involved in something positive!  In my 37 years as a teacher, I know that a certain kind of 'magic" happens when everyone is working toward the same goal, and that students actually get to know and respect each other more through charitable initiatives. There is so much need in our country, that finding a project will not be a problem!

I hope you will let me know about any charities you and your classroom are promoting.  I would love to share your successes with my readers.

One of my favorite quotes about empathy is from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, by Harper Lee, which I taught for 35 years: 
“If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” – Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.

Rittman Publishing, LLC ®

I LOVE writing. And I love writing children's books- my newest passion. Although it will be a ton of work, I am looking forward to selling my books.  Since I was a secondary teacher, I know that I have much to learn about elementary students, and I will have to follow my own advice and be my genuine self.  However, I also know that I am passionate about helping kids who have to wear glasses, and that GRADY GETS GLASSES sends a positive message. I am willing to work hard and do all the things that also made me a successful teacher for 37 years. I remain inspired! 

Teacher friends- let me know if you want me to read GRADY GETS GLASSES at your school. I am willing to come in to discuss the creative writing process, why writing is important, and personal fulfillment through writing, along with reading my book.  I would appreciate the exposure, and i would make signed copies avaialble for purchase in your classrooms following the reading.  Please email me at .  The website will be up and running within the next week.  Signed copies will be available!   

Please like Dede's new page Grady Gets Glasses for updates about her soon-to-launch children's book. 

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Visit Dede's webpage for complete details on her award-winning book, STUDENT TEACHING: THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER 

Dede is the co-host of The Total Education Q & A, which can be heard on Blogtalk Radio at

Dede could really use your financial help to make her dream of helping kids who need glasses come true. Please visit for complete details about her upcoming book GRADY GETS GLASSES!

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