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December 19, 2012 My Pledge to Be Kind: A Teacher's Reflection on Sandy Hook By Danielle Mahoney
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

    People everywhere have been left broken-hearted by the news of the tragic school shooting that took place in Newtown, Connecticut. When a tragedy like this strikes, the whole world stops for a second and holds its breath. As educators, we think about our students, our teacher friends, our principals, and support staff, and we know in our hearts that this could have happened in our own schools.

    As we attempt to understand what has happened, we think about our own loved ones and we are overcome with grief for the families who have suffered such a great loss.

    As we comfort our students and struggle to get back into the routines of our classrooms, let’s honor those who have lost their lives by inviting our students to take a pledge to be nonviolent . . .   a pledge to be kind. Check out my book recommendations, and click on the links to resources that will inspire you to take action and spread kindness during this difficult time.


    Our Fears and Our Students

    Balancing our own fears and heartbreak with the curiosity and concerns of our students has been difficult this week. Some children have been fully exposed to the details of what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School, while others have been shielded from the daily news accounts and are largely unaware. You may find yourself at a loss for words or struggling to respond to students as they look to you for answers. As educators, we simply cannot ignore what has happened. We have to listen to our students and respond to them in an age-appropriate manner.

    Although the grim reality of violence in schools is something we can’t deny, we do need to let our students know that we work most seriously towards their safety and well-being. We practice lockdown drills and evacuation procedures throughout the year to ensure that each of us knows our responsibilities in case of an emergency. We know these procedures work. Thanks to the bravery and dedication of the teacher-heroes at Sandy Hook, the lives of many children were saved. 

    Please check out Scholastic’s Resources for Responding to Violence and Tragedy to guide you in speaking about tough topics with your students. “The Nation Mourns” is a great resource to share when helping students sort through the facts of what happened that day.


    Dealing With Loss

    We think about the 20 innocent children and 6 dedicated staff members who lost their lives and feel overcome with anguish. Here are two beautifully written picture books that deal with loss. The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers helps us to understand that it will take some time to heal our broken hearts.  But with time and help from others, we learn to open our hearts up once again. As Lauren Thompson writes in Hope Is an Open Heart, “Hope is remembering that you are not alone. Many others feel the way you do. Many others care.” I hope that the people in the community of Newtown know that they are not alone. They are in all of our thoughts and hearts.

    Taking a Pledge to Be Kind

    When a tragedy takes place, we instinctively feel the urgency to counteract it by making a change in the world. We know that there is a lot to be done. We need to be the change we want to see. Asking your students to take a pledge to be kind is a small start that can have a great impact.

    There are so many great picture books that inspire kids to be kind to others. Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts and Bob Graham’s, How to Heal a Broken Wing are MUST-haves for your classroom library. Both include incredible main characters that your students will be able to identify with and learn from.


    Now is a great time to honor first responders. Follow my post on using Christmas Makes Me Think by Tony Medina to encourage students to reach out to the people who help our communities.

    Use my Pledge to Be Kind to inspire students to record their pledges on paper.

    There are so many organizations out there with a mission to spread kindness. They offer ideas on thoughtful ways to have a greater impact on those around you. Below are just a few of the ones I’ve found.

    The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation

    On this website, you’ll find a list of suggested activities for grades K–2. Use these resources as a starting point to begin to brainstorm other ideas for acts of kindness with your students. . . . Then, watch it spread!






    The Be Kind People Project

    A teacher friend introduced me to this organization, and I fell in love with it right away. Their mission is to honor teachers and inspire children to be kind. Sounds like the perfect recipe for a kind classroom! Check out the resources on their site, and submit your Be Kind Kid Pledges online.




    The Kindness Project

    About a week ago, I came across a blog that is devoted to posts about spreading kindness. Now is the time to explore their site! You’ll find some great ideas to help adults spread kindness. It has to start with us, right? This can certainly be a conversation starter with your students. Check out their post on RACKing. By taking part in Random Acts of Christmas Kindness, you will help spread holiday cheer — and kindness.



    Thank You


    Teachers, thank you for doing what you do. The heroic actions of those who gave their lives on Friday remind me of how important our job is. They make me feel proud to be a teacher. I feel honored to have a place on to share ideas and resources with you. The Newtown community and the children and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School, please know that you are not alone in your grief. The world is mourning with you.

    And teachers, when you are done clicking into these links and you’ve found that you have gathered enough online resources to spread kindness in the world, please check out Christy Crawford’s post on taking a break from technology to spend some quality time with your family. I know that she will be putting her advice into practice this week. And so will I.

    Here’s to a new year filled with much peace and love and kindness.


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Susan Cheyney