WESTFIELD, NJ – At Wilson School, third teacher Lynn Kraus read “Chrysanthemum” by Kevin Henkes, whose title character is teased about her name.
“Chrysanthemum wilted,” Kraus said to her students. “I want you to think about whether respect is happening here.”
The third-graders break into small group discussions after watching a short video that tracks an act of kindness from one person to the next in a community, one of many lessons and activities across the Westfield Public School District as students and staff observed the Week of Respect.
In each of the district’s 10 schools, teachers emphasized the meaning of respect and the different ways students and staff members show it.
Franklin School got an early start to the Week of Respect with a colorful assembly focusing on the Six Pillars of Character and “The 7 Habits of Happy Kids” by Sean Covey. Each student donned a T-shirt (in red, orange, yellow, green, blue or purple, depending on grade level) with one of the six pillars written on the back: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship.
Kindergartners in Joellen Surace’s class listened to “Have You Filled a Bucket Today: A Guide to Daily Happiness For Kids” by Carol McCloud.
The book's central theme focuses on an invisible bucket people all carry and the chances we are given to fill someone else's bucket with kindness and respect. The youngsters filled the kindergarten bucket with kind thoughts "so that we all feel safe and respected," said Surace.
The class wrapped up the lesson, singing and dancing to “Try a Little Kindness” from Sesame Street.
Tamaques School second-graders explored empathy with the use of a shoebox, a pencil and some crayons.
“Empathy means you put yourself in someone else's shoes,” said school counselor Marybeth Herits. "You really try to understand how they are feeling.”
Using different colors for different emotions, the students illustrated how a hypothetical child who is struggling with math might be feeling.
Intermediate students at Edison and Roosevelt were treated to a powerful presentation as Dr. Paul Wichansky, who was born with cerebral palsy and hearing loss, talked about the transformative nature of kindness and the importance of positivity.
“Respect is something we practice daily in Westfield Public Schools. So we called this week the “Week of Extra Respect,” said Superintendent Dr. Margaret Dolan. “I am thankful that we have so many caring teachers, administrators and other staff who model respectful behavior every day and who routinely incorporate lessons focusing on empathy, responsibility, fairness, and other characteristics that enforce the district’s mission ‘to educate all students to reach their highest potential as productive, well-balanced and responsible citizens who respect individual differences and diversity in an every changing world.’”
Westfield schools are among those from across the state to participate in the Week of Respect, which is mandated under the state’s anti-Bullying Rights Act.