Spreading Kindness

Elizabeth Schley Education, Life in the Classroom, Love, Mentoring, Teacher Leadership

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If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. -Dr. Maya Angelou

Think about the emails you get as part of the school staff every day.

Now, think about the emails you send every day.

What do you notice?

This hit me hard a few weeks ago as I was working to help a teacher answer an email from a parent. The sender was upset and the words they chose to use were less than kind. My job was to work with the teacher to determine the course of action and to understand that the angry email was most likely frustrated with the situation and not an indictment on them as a teacher. Not to excuse the sender’s actions, however having an understanding helps with processing the information. It has taken me 17 years as a teacher and 9 years as a parent to sharpen this skill and to create relationships with my teaching community that rely on collaboration for student success. I have often found that speaking on the phone with people helps tremendously. We tend to realize that we are on the same team and can work out what we need to.

What hit me was that these unkind emails are the rule, rather than the exception. It got me thinking about how I interact with people daily. The majority of my emails are informational, and not very exciting. I try to send kind and positive emails, but sometimes I fall short. I then thought of how many teachers that day got an email that was unkind and found themselves crumbled under the weight of it. When we teach, we pour our heart and soul into it. It hurts deeply when we receive responses that are hurtful, unkind, or angry.

We cannot help others’ interactions with us, but we can put out more gratitude and kindness in the world. One day for a warm-up, I asked my students to send an email to a teacher thanking them for something specific. I did not check to see that they had done it but reminded them that often the emails we get don’t offer a smile. Because my seniors are just the sweetest bunches of people you could ever meet, they agreed. I wrote to my friends on social media and asked them to do the same.


The next day for their warm-up, I asked them to write down three things they loved/appreciated about themselves. They turned them in, and then as they were working diligently on their AP Government work, I wrote them each back something that I appreciated about them. It seemed a small thing but made a big impact.


Walking around to teacher’s classrooms, I share with them what I love about their classroom {the cute notepad is helpful} because we aren’t often given positive feedback by the people who matter most to us, our colleagues. We receive evaluations from our administration, but it feels good to have feedback from the other people in the trenches with us. Think about someone in your school and why it is you admire them. Once you’ve done that, GO TELL THEM! Or send an email! So often, we do things that are never seen but have a huge impact. Send that email praising your team teacher for always greeting kids at the door. Tell them that you appreciate that they are always there to listen to you vent. Say THANK YOU!

I’ve been doing this each day. I thank my students for knowing what to do when they come in. I thank my staff for taking care of themselves, thus creating a positive environment in their classroom. I thank the office administrator for sending funny memes to brighten our day. (I laugh on a daily basis because of this)


The biggest lesson I learned is when I needed kindness the most, I was the one who needed to create it around me. I needed to be the change that I wanted to see. As a leader in my classroom, I needed to model this behavior for my students. I need to be gracious with myself when I forget to be kind, learn the lesson, apologize, and be better the next time.

When my students leave my classroom for the day, I remind them to be kind, even when people don’t deserve it.

My challenge to you, dear reader, is to find someone who brightens your day, makes your life easier, or just needs to know that they are amazing and tell them, whether it’s through email, a text, or even better, in person. 





I am starting my 17th year of teaching and have taught most of the social sciences in a public school setting including; 8th grade, AP Government and Politics, and dabbled in APUSH, World History, US History, and College Prep Government and Politics. I have a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, Early Childhood Development and a Master's in Secondary Education, History from Northern Arizona University. I am also a National Board Certified Teacher in Social Studies/History (Early Adolescence). I write a blog for social studies teachers, Teaching AP Government, which has become a great passion of mine because I believe civic education is incredibly important to the continuance of democracy. I've been in a few articles: The Real Work Of Understanding History , Lessons on US Constitution Find New Relevance, and I write for The Standard about civic education! When I’m not writing or teaching, I’m hanging out with my two favorite people, Chris and Emma, watching The Office or Parks and Rec.

Comments 3

  1. Jen Robinson

    Liz, This is awesome! Thank you for sharing. I love that you not only invited your students, but other teachers as well. When you shared your notes back to your students, what did it feel like in your room? Can’t wait to try this with our staff.

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