Thursday, September 8, 2011

From the Heart....Building Your School Family

Our School Family is built and centered around being a helpful heart.  When I first came across Conscious Discipline 5 years ago, I loved how it fit in to what I was already doing. Then I become even more excited several years ago when I learned about being a bucket filler. Conscious Discipline is built on the foundation of everyone being safe and for so many of the at-risk kiddos I teach this is HUGE for them because of the homes they come from.  In Our School Family, my job is the Safe Keeper.  The kiddos ALL have School Family jobs but their FIRST job is to help me keep everyone safe.  We have a Safe Keeper's Box where they put their hearts every morning (The hearts are just wooden ones I spray painted red and then hot glued their picture on). 

Oops! I see my foot! :)

I introduce the Safe Keeper box by reading Treasure of the Heart by Alice Ann Miller (BTW-This is a great book for Writing Workshop to teach the kiddos about writing about things that are important to them). I talk about how they are each a treasure to me that I want to keep safe.  We talk about ways to keep each other safe and usually write these on a big heart.  We then learn the Safe Keeper's Song.  This is from one of the Conscious Discipline cd's.  The cd's are AWESOME and so wonderful about reinforcing the things you are teaching the kiddos.  If you haven't checked out the site go NOW!!!

In the morning this is what we do: when they come to me with their hearts I say to them "(child's name), It is my job to keep you safe." The child answers me back by saying "It is my job to help you keep everyone safe." We even talk about this being a commitment, which is a promise from our hearts. This is great to hold them accountable throughout the day because you can remind them that they made this promise.

The next way we use hearts is not Conscious Discipline but ties in nicely with it.  We talk about using our heart words.  Heart words are words that show someone you care about them and respect them.  We talk about those words and how and when we use them.  With interactive writing, we write those on hearts and post them in the room.  We really work on celebrating each other when we use those words and I am amazed at how quickly they learn to use these words with me and each other.  I have even had parents talk to me about how much more polite and respectful their child has become. Here are the heart words for Our School Family: yes ma'am, no ma'am, please, thank you, you are welcome, excuse me, I am sorry, I forgive you, you did it and way to go.

Another way we use hearts is by talking about being a Bucket Filler.  We read the book and talk about how being helpful and kind fills a bucket and how by being hurtful and rude is being a bucket dipper. We talk about the best way to fill a bucket is by being a helpful heart (This is what all of the promises (rules) of Our School Family are centered around that we did the first week of school). We have a bucket that the children get to help fill by noticing the kind and helpful things others do.  We call this adding a helpful heart to the bucket.  The helpful hearts are heart shaped beads from a craft store. We work hard all year to fill the bucket and at the end of the year we use the beads to make bracelets.  When the bucket gets full, we empty and fill it again. When the children notice a friend doing something helpful and kind they go to that child and say "(child's name) I am going to add you a helpful heart for tying my shoe." or "I am going to add you a helpful heart for remembering to use your heart words when you accidentally kicked me." The child that is having a helpful heart added for them answers back "Thank you for noticing that." and the child adding the helpful heart answers back "You are welcome." They even add hearts for me! Today, one of my sweet little kiddos added me a helpful heart for reminding him to sit criss cross so he could keep his friend beside him safe. Too sweet!

I really wish I could video and show you what this looks like because it is one of the sweetest and most amazing things I have ever seen.  There are times I have tears in my eyes because of what they say to each other and just the bonds it builds between all of us.

Here is the book I use to introduce the Safe Keeper Box:

I would LOVE to help you do this in your classroom so if you have any questions please ask! I would love a heart note letting me know what you think.

12 heart notes:

Karen said...

I borrowed "Conscious Discipline" from my local library as I had read about it on line somewhere. I am sorry to say that I did not finish it. I felt as though I needed someone to discuss what I was reading. Anyway your fabulous posts are making me want to borrow it again and work through the whole book this time. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Hi Heather, my name is Nancy Pham. I am in my last teaching program classes and we are learning about classroom management. I have to create a classroom management plan. I came across your blog and idea and I love it! I was wondering if you can help me as if I would set it up in my future classroom and I will use it in my assignment. =) Please contact me at

Heather's Heart said...

Karen, the book is hard to get through by yourself and it really makes your head hurt at times because of the way it causes you to examine yourself and what you are doing. I would check out the songs and the Shubert books. They are a great way to start with some of the structures such as the School Family Jobs and Safe Place. I'll be glad to help anyway I can! =)

Nancy, I am soooo sorry I am just now getting back to you. I had computer issues all weekend. I would love to help. I'll email you. Please feel free to share my blog with your other teacher friends who might just be beginning too!

Jennifer said...

Heather- I would love to know how best to implement this mid-year! I do have a card system that is AWESOME because by about the tenth week we don't really need it anymore. But we do need SOMETHING. I love what you've told me about this idea so far because it goes along with my classroom philosophy that we are a family. At my last district my principal told us every kid must get a hug from you at the end of the day because you might be the only one in their lives giving them a hug. I still do hug or high five at the end of the day!
Rowdy in First Grade

Anonymous said...

I'm reading this and love the idea. I'm thinking of starting this in February . I'm thinking Valentines day would be a great time to strt talking about how we make others heart feel. Also Iit would give me time to read the books and lern the songs another poster talked about. Well, I'm off to the library or to the bookstore.

Trish said...

This is FABULOUS! I am going to do this beginning in January as soon as we are back at school! We have had to reconfigure our entire school, so I am losing some kids and gaining some new ones. This will quickly help us to feel like a school family unit again! Thank you so so much!

Randi said...

This sounds like something right up my ally! Do you think it will work starting in February? I'm thinking it may be just what we need in these cold winter months to remind us how to treat one another...~Thank You!

Randi @ Teach It With Class

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Erica said...

Hi Heather,
I am in love with your blog! I have spent my whole day reading through your posts. It is my first year in K, after being in second fro so long and I have so many ideas from your blog. I know you are first, but I still learn a lot from you. :) I would love to implement this idea next year. I already do bucket fillers, so I imagine I can add the rest pretty smoothly. I even ordered the book you recommended already. So excited. Thank you for sharing!


Diane said...

I'm loving this with all my heart!!
I'm going to give it a whirl this year. Love the idea that at the end of the year, everyone gets to make a heart bracelet with the hearts! So touching and cute!
I'm wondering where you got the hearts and about how many do you think is needed?

Mrs. Pohly said...

I love the idea of the hearts. You said each morning when a child hands you their heart you say those words.... how do they get the heart in the morning? Does each child have this job everyday? Do you just pass them out in the morning on their desks? I am very interested in implementing this in my room as well and wasn't sure of those details. THANKS!

Anonymous said...

I teach preschool for Head Start, and our program uses Conscious Discipline. I will be adding the Safe Keeper ritual this year, and I've been trying to learn more about it. I love the whole way you have implemented this. Thanks so much for sharing your ideas. I, too, would like to know how the process works when the kids arrive.

Emma said...

I really like this idea! I already read the book, and was looking for a way to have our own class bucket last year, but I got caught up in... well, my first year of teaching. What a great idea! <3