Caring about others is a form of love one another.

One Minute to a Clean Classroom

With a little time and planning, your classroom will sparkle at the end of each day.

The process begins with the students. Asked the open-needed question, “What are the many ways we can clean up our classroom at the end of the day?” Their hands waved. I listed the ideas on the board.

We then determined whether it would take one person or two to do the job. Some jobs were marked with a ‘2’.

My students had already been assigned numbers alphabetically. (A small jar held the numbers written on those little cardboard circles). On Monday, I pulled out a number. That person had the first turn in identifying the job they wanted for the week. Using clothespins with numbers and the list of jobs on large cardboard, let me quickly show who had that job. Each week, we drew another number to go first.


At the end of each day, everyone was asked to get ready – to think about their job and how they would do it in one minute.  I counted down…five, four, three, two, one Begin!

Watching the clock, I called out the last ten seconds – 10..9..8..7..6..5..4..3..2..1! Students tore back to their seats. Students who had finished early had called out, ‘Who needs me?” and another child answered.


They sat and basked in the praise. Shiny black/whiteboards were noted. Clean floors were admired. Empty pencil sharpeners were appreciated. Yes, we were ready for tomorrow and new day and a clean classroom.


I especially praised the children when parents were coming in for conferences. “They will be so proud of you.”

A lovely benefit. The custodian loved that our classroom was so clean. He spent more time on cleaning the floor and other items.






The ABCDs of Kindness

This activity began with a pure serendipity moment. A student had gone out of their way to help another. As a class, we were talking about it.   Suddenly, I recalled a military term – Above and Beyond the Call of Duty.

I wrote it on the board only to see blank faces across the room. Taking time to explain it, I noticed the first letters of the words were ABCD.  Using this, I asked if they would like to pay attention to ABCD moments. They bought the concept, and we were off and running. These were fourth graders.

First, they talked about ways to be kind and help others. I kept a list.

Next, someone suggested that we make something to hand out. They decided circles with numbers or points written on them would show the level of the kindness. As the teacher, I would determine how many points the child got for being kind. (Their list gave me direction.)

One computer literate student offered to create circles at home and put numbers on them. The class told her what numbers.  (They were about 5 or 6 inches across.) When she brought them in, I ran off copies on heavier paper. The students then took them home to decorate and color. After they brought them back, I laminated them. Then they cut them out.

Wow. It was a fabulous undertaking!


Once we had our stack of circles – and they were beautiful! – paying attention to kindnesses began…and the kindnesses increased. Picking up a dropped pencil, opening a door, letting someone else go first. For many, it was an art. Baggies were brought in to keep their ABCDs in. Students began giving them to each other.  Parents who dropped by mentioned them.

Then, the end of the year neared. What would be done with them?  An auction was decided. I cleaned out closets and checked Good Will.  Some student brought in items.

The day came, and everyone had their bag of ABCD circles.  The rule was only three bids per item. It was explained that we might run out of items, but fun held on.

Then, the surprise. One boy had no ABCD circles. I paused. I asked. The children told me. Every time he earned an ABCD circle, he gave it to someone.   The next step was a student suggestion and agreed upon by all – he would get first choice of the auction items. He was amazed. I was grateful.


The auction went on, they traded items and changed their minds. We had a good time.

This happened in the second half of the school year, so it hadn’t gone on for a long time.  But, I share this. It might work for you and your students. Or, something like it.

The Love of the Teacher

As the class sat expectantly and slightly in awe, my first college education professor asked,  “Why do you want to be a teacher?” One student answered, “I want to be a teacher because I love children.”  Boom! The instructor’s firm response was, in essence, “Loving the children alone doesn’t do it. You have to know what you’re doing.”  Our careers in teaching had begun.

When the heart of child is touched by the love of the teacher, true learning takes place.


Now that I am on the other side of decades of teaching, here’s my take on it –     “When the heart of the student is touched by the love of the teacher, true learning takes place.”  When a teacher loves and appreciates the student for who he is and what he can become, he/she knows it and is willing to do as much as they can.

For me, being a well-trained teacher is a form of love; being open to new ideas is a form of love; learning to see the good in every student is a form of love.


VIGNETTE. Five years into my teaching career, I was assigned a science class with sixth graders when sixth was in the elementary school. One  student loved disrupting our class.  One day, as the sixth graders lined up to leave the room, he decided it was time to teach his teacher a lesson. Putting up his fists and taking a fighter’s stance, he offered to beat me up. [Mind you, he was a shade taller than I was!] That challenge put the class on pause.

My humor kicked in. I carefully and slowly bit by bit moved my body to mimic his pose making sure he knew what I was doing. I set myself up as he was – fists up, feet spread, chin out – then, sighing deeply, I said with an exaggerated sadness, “I know I’m going to lose, but if it makes you happy, I’m willing to take you on.” He burst into laughter – as did the class.

Now I don’t recommend this as a teaching technique, but letting him save face after putting us both into a lose-lose situation saved both of us.  After this, the classroom was no longer a place for him to demand attention. He knew I wasn’t trying to win, I just wanted to teach. And, he realized that I appreciated him – just as he was. Yes, we were friends from then on – ‘teacher/student’ friends.  No, I didn’t send him to the office although I let the principal know what happened.  Sometimes, as a friend once told me, we just move on. We moved on.