I left my apartment at 8:01 this morning, expecting to be at my desk checking e-mail at 8:45, but thanks to a signal malfunction, I exited the subway 20 minutes later than planned. Fuming, cranky, and annoyed, I strode down Battery Place with a purpose. On my way, I happened upon a large group of students flooding the sidewalk, and each one tried to hand me a piece of paper.I looked down at the paper and saw that it was a hand-written flyer. Be Kind and Just!!! it exhorted in black marker. I have scanned the flyer to share with you so you, too, may know how to be kind and just.
Number 10, which is a little hard to read, says accept peoples differences [sic].
When I arrived at the office, I ran into several colleagues who were recipients of these documents. Inspired by the encounter, I contacted the school across the street to see if this was the origin of the roving band of up-standers. Indeed it was.According to Mary Valentine, the Parent Coordinator at PS 276, the idea behind the challenge is to learn about historical figures who engaged in acts of kindness and justice, to reflect on one’s own actions as kind or just, and then to take action. Middle school classes were paired with elementary classes to teach the younger students about kindness and justice and then develop an action plan. Some created skits together, some wrote songs, some led workshops, but most worked together to create pamphlets in “an effort to promote kindness and justice to the general public.”
The students stayed in the general vicinity, making their way east, north, and south. Ms. Valentine participated in a similar program 13 years ago when she taught in Newark, but she introduced the idea to Battery Park City last year.Ms. Valentine let me know that the 8th graders enjoyed their leadership roles and the younger students gained role models. She shared with me a comment from one of her 8th graders who had a particularly active bunch of 3rd graders to organize, especially outside. “Elementary school teachers should be given Nobel Peace Prizes.”
I think it is no coincidence that two institutions across the street from each other teach empathy and justice within their walls. We could not have better neighbors. Thanks for an inspiring day, PS 276.