The New Year brings with it a sense of new things to accomplish and new places to engage. I hope you’ll take this time to engage with an important survey from CPS.

The district continues gathering community feedback on how they measure school quality. They need to hear from you today!

This survey is voluntary and responses are all anonymous. Not only that, but it should take you less than 10 minutes to complete. CPS recently extended the deadline to complete the survey, but act fast – the survey closes on Tuesday, January 18.

Parents and community members have important insights to share, so I hope you’ll take a few minutes from your busy day and add your voice to the discussion. Let’s take this opportunity to engage in a meaningful way!

As a little girl, my mother and grandmother taught me to treat people how I wanted to be treated. I think most of us have someone special in our lives who taught us that lesson.

As a teacher at Carver Elementary School in Chicago, I try to model that lesson and pass it down to my students. Kindness and empathy are skills to be taught like anything else.

The Teach Kindness program allowed us to focus on an impactful way to show kindness, through a Gratitude Jar. If a student does something nice for someone or someone does something nice for them, we add a note to the jar, hoping to fill it with small acts of kindness.

Even during the pandemic when we couldn’t be together in person, we started each day with a focus on kindness. The students had time and space to talk with each other, act out scenarios to show kindness to others, or talk about kindness in their own lives.

Students felt a sense of community, even online. They felt like they belonged.

Teach Kindness worked then, and it continues to work for us now. It’s become an expectation at Carver, something we’ve all agreed to do. It is a part of our school’s culture. And that kind culture has been honored with the 2020-2021 Kind School Award, a recognition we are so proud to have!

Teach Kindness allowed us to double-down on our school’s dedication to social-emotional learning and our students and staff have benefited from that commitment.

We can all learn something from this commitment to kindness. As we approach the holidays, I hope you have something to add to your own Gratitude Jar.

P.S.: Read more about each of the schools honored with the 2020-2021 Kind Schools award. Teach Kindness is open to all Illinois schools, so any educator looking to learn more should reach out to Brandi Watts at Stand for more information.

I often find that some of the best lessons for my students are the ones that build upon each other and are built into our daily lives.

That’s definitely the case with the lessons in Teach Kindness, a program we implemented at Fiske Elementary School in Chicago. As the school year progressed, the lessons on kindness and empathy did, too.

Our students jumped in with both feet, even taking some of the lessons home with them (during both remote and in-person learning). In many cases, that got their parents involved in the kindness curriculum as well.

In fact, after a recent parent meeting we hosted here, parents left refreshed and encouraged. They said they related to the kindness topic and the positive messages we had for them and their students.

This really served as a reminder of what we should be doing on a daily basis. COVID-19 has shown us, crystal clear, that SEL supports for students are vital. By bringing those supports into daily lessons, we meet students where they are and make kindness a part of our school’s culture. And by making kindness a part of our culture, we were lucky enough to be honored with the 2020-2021 Kind School Award!

The materials are right at teachers’ fingertips. All we have to do is teach it. We all should take the time to be kind, no matter how busy we are. By investing that time, we’ll see improvements across the school, the community, and the city.

I hope you’ll join us.

P.S.: Read more about Teach Kindness and the other schools honored with the 2020-2021 Kind Schools award. Teach Kindness is open to all Illinois schools, so any educator looking to learn more should reach out to Brandi Watts at Stand for more information.

Everyone loves a good shout out, right? Especially when it’s for something that makes our community a better place.

That’s why I love the special Kindness Shout Outs we have at Beard Elementary on Chicago’s Northwest Side.

When a student gets “caught being kind” we recognize them for that wonderful act and put it on a bulletin board for everyone to see. I can confirm that students LOVE these shout outs for being a good friend to their classmates.

At the end of the week, the student gets to take home their shout out. We also share images with parents so they can celebrate their child’s kindness too.

These acts of kindness and recognition have helped bring joy and positivity to our school community, a welcome sense of happiness given the pandemic and challenges of the past year.

The Teach Kindness program helped us elevate our work and make students feel loved and connected during this disjointed time. It has really motivated them to be better in the classroom, to each other, and as a community. And our school community was recently “caught being kind” and honored with the 2020-2021 Kind School Award, recognition we’re so proud of!

For other educators looking to make a difference at their school, I can honestly say that even though this has been a difficult year, participating in Teach Kindness is not adding more work to your plate, it’s adding more joy to your day. Bringing positivity and kindness to your school is totally doable – and it really does make school a happier place!

I hope you can make shout outs like this a part of your school’s culture. I’m so glad we have. And the students and staff here at Beard continue to make the days brighter and kinder for everyone – something we could all use a little more of these days.

P.S.: Learn more Teach Kindness and the other schools honored with the 2020-2021 Kind Schools award. Teach Kindness is open to all Illinois schools, so any educator looking to learn more should reach out to Brandi Watts at Stand for more information.

With all the news and the disruption we’ve experienced these past 20 months, one simple but powerful thing helped students at Palmer Elementary make it through remote learning and return safely to classrooms: kindness.

And while things are getting better, both in our school buildings and in many of our communities, the effects of the pandemic are still being felt by many students and staff.

During remote learning, we saw an increase in students exhibiting behaviors related to depression, anxiety, and even suicide ideation. Some of this behavior has even returned this school year.

Students as well as educators were hungry for connection and support. Teaching kindness made connecting easier. Students communicated better. Bickering and miscommunication decreased. They were kinder to each other and to school staff.

Kindness helped our students deal with the uncertainty and turmoil of the pandemic. The Teach Kindness lessons were essential to our school community. They gave us a common language for everyone to share. They made it easier for students to speak up if they or their classmates were not being treated properly.

The positive impact it has had on our school culture cannot be overstated. Not only that, our hard work and focus on kindness was recognized with the 2020-2021 Kind School Award!

Making the world a kinder place has helped in the classrooms, in the hallways, and in the community. It helped here and can help in any Illinois school.

P.S.: Read more about the other Illinois schools honored with the Teach Kindness 2020-2021 Kind Schools award. Teach Kindness is open to all Illinois schools, so any educator looking to learn more should reach out to Brandi Watts at Stand for more information.

I recently crossed off an item on my to-do list, and I hope you’ll join me by making sure your voice is heard as CPS gathers community feedback on how they measure school quality.

This helps the district know what’s working, find and fix things that aren’t, and be transparent with our Chicago community.

Add your voice by completing this short survey today.

The survey is voluntary, and responses are anonymous. It should take you less than 10 minutes to complete. The survey closes on Thursday, December 23.

After completing the survey, you can enter to win a $50 Amazon gift card!

Parents and community members have important insights to share, so I hope you’ll join me in speaking up as part of this important process.

During this most difficult-of-difficult years, educators and parents/caregivers representing 16 Chicago Public Schools partnered with us to build trust and connections with one another.

They participated in Connection Conversations, a family engagement program of Stand. Connection Conversations is a COVID-driven innovation of our in-person, parent-teacher home visit program. It is centered around voluntary virtual visits, supported by educator training and collaboration, which helps schools and families build trusting relationships, even when they cannot meet face-to-face. 

The results have exciting implications for supporting student success. Some highlights:

  • Participants were universally positive about their experiences.
  • They reported observing more help-seeking behaviors.
  • Educators described having more capacity to inquire about, and respond to, student needs.

Schools should not be expected to tackle learning recovery on their own. And parents and caregivers want to be equal partners in their children’s learning and development. Let’s tap into the superpower that comes with building trust.

Our thanks to the educators and families who participated in Connection Conversations and to the University of Chicago Consortium for their strategic analysis.

Libraries, arts, safe and proper learning facilities, and engaging extracurricular activities. These are a few things that most parents and teachers would say all schools should have.

I agree. I had the opportunity to share my thoughts – including the need for strong extracurricular activities – at a recent budget workshop at Corliss High School in Pullman. I was joined by other Stand parents and educators, as well as a number of other parents from across the city.

The meeting had a community feel to it. Everyone was there with ideas on how to make funding our schools work better for Chicago’s students.

A priority of mine is making sure students have access to engaging activities during and after school. These are important to give the kids something to look forward to and help keep them out of trouble. Not only that, but tutoring services would help them achieve more in the classroom.

I heard plenty of other good ideas from parents and teachers. Things like adding librarians, music, and arts classes. Others mentioned the need for fun and safe facilities like gyms for sports and PE classes.

Another strong sentiment that I shared with most everyone there was the need for funding to be equitable and spread across the city, not focused in one specific area.

There were so many strong ideas discussed at the workshop. I encourage you to read more about them in this recent Chalkbeat article. I spoke with them about my ideas, and so did a few other Stand parents – see if you can spot us!

On Wednesday, March 30, Stand for Children Illinois commissioned a poll to get a pulse for where Chicagoans stand on a potential CTU strike, given the union’s decision to engage in a one-day strike today amid the breakdown in negotiations between CTU and CPS.

The result: Chicagoans don’t want another CTU strike.

Two-thirds (67%) of Chicago voters want both CTU and CPS to reach a contract through negotiations, while less than a quarter (24%) support reaching a contract via a strike. Support for reaching a contract resolution through negotiations is widespread across all demographics, age groups, and geographic areas.

Mimi Rodman, Stand for Children Illinois Executive Director, said “When given a choice, Chicagoans are clear – they want CTU and CPS to reach a contract through negotiations and avoid another strike because our students need to be in the classroom. An overwhelming majority of this City want them back at the negotiating table; it’s time for them to listen to the public and to unite forces to pressure Springfield to do its part to help schools.”

The poll asked 832 registered voters: “Between these two options, do you think the better way to reach a contract resolution between Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union is to continue discussions at the negotiating table or to strike and shut down public schools?”