Education Blackboard — December 31, 2009

School Beat

Bucket ‘fill-osophy’ helps children develop healthy self-concept

Principal, Lakes Elementary School

When I was growing up, some of my most powerful memories came each summer from the one week that I attended a church camp. I remember sitting around a campfire singing, “Fill my cup; let it overflow. Let it overflow with love.” Now I don’t sing as much anymore (and most people with ears are grateful for that), but some things never change. I still need love, encouragement, praise and affirmation as much as ever. So do the kids at Lakes Elementary. That’s why I’m thrilled that our staff at Lakes has inducted a new initiative this year inspired by the children’s book entitled “Have You Filled a Bucket Today?” by Carol McCloud.

A bucket represents a person’s mental and emotional health or self-concept. Many children have empty buckets through no fault of their own. Young children are dependent on others to fill their buckets. Every time you do something kind or considerate for someone, you “fill their bucket.”

Lakes has become a school community defined by “bucket-filling.” Don’t take my word for it. First-grader Hailey Mize said, “Bucket-filling makes kids feel great because they have helped others!”

A fifth-grader named Edward Hassebrock added, “It makes you feel good when you do something good for somebody.”

Many buildings define their behavior/discipline code with a list of offenses and penalties. At Lakes, we also have a positive interaction initiative that helps us celebrate those countless kind things that we do for each other every day. Lakes students and staff will have opportunities to write, “Today, Sawyer filled my bucket by…” or, “I want to thank Jersey for filling my bucket when she…” Our halls ring every day as we champion these random acts of kindness.

We all know that most behaviors are driven by a need for attention. If we pour our energies and accolades into recognizing the positive things, we are sending a clear message to our entire Lakes family: “If you want our attention, you should do something kind for someone else. You should fill their bucket!”

Our staff has noticed a significant change in the building culture. “Spilling or dropping things used to result in a laughing response,” said Joan Dreyer, “but since we initiated bucket-filling, kids actually take to the floor automatically to help the child pick up their stuff.”

Our social worker, Michael Newell, added, “Bucket-filling is becoming a part of the language of Lakes kids, and that is tremendous. I guarantee you they will remember this when they are my age. It is a motto we should all live by throughout our lives. Kind of like the Golden Rule—in a bucket. I think it has really made the staff even more aware that we all need to have our bucket filled and we all have the power to do it for each other regardless of age.”

The biggest goal with bucket-filling is to help children develop a healthy self-concept.

Since I attended the Capturing Kids’ Hearts training (sponsored by the Rockford Education Foundation), I make my own children tell me five wonderful things about themselves. My daughter Melanie might say, “I’m artistic, I’m clever, I’m loving, I’m a good writer, and I’m funny.” At the beginning, it was difficult. When she finishes, I “fill her bucket” by adding an affirmation of my own.

We may be able to maintain our own self-esteem, but it is primarily fed by the actions of others. Alvin Price once said, “We need to fill a child’s bucket of self-esteem so high that the rest of the world cannot poke enough holes in it to drain it dry.”

Everyone carries around their invisible bucket. What little thing can you do or say today to fill someone’s bucket?

Bucket-filling is making a difference. Justin Knapp said, “Bucket-filling helps build more friendships.”

Emily Ramos added, “People share more freely.”

Perhaps Derek Tramper summed it up best, “I think everybody is a hero in their own way. A bucket-filler is definitely a hero!”

So, if you want to be a hero, your mission is simple:  Fill someone’s bucket—today!

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