2018-03-29 / Front Page

Looking for the Good at Pell, and Finding It

By Amy Martin

Jack Rosa, Anna Grayko, Joao Paes and Stella Grayko standing in front of one of the “gratitude walls” at Pell, which are papered with sticky notes holding “moments of gratitude,” things students are grateful for – one of the components of the “Look for the Good” program. 
(Photo by Jen Carter) Jack Rosa, Anna Grayko, Joao Paes and Stella Grayko standing in front of one of the “gratitude walls” at Pell, which are papered with sticky notes holding “moments of gratitude,” things students are grateful for – one of the components of the “Look for the Good” program. (Photo by Jen Carter) Bullying, school violence, terrorism, gun control. It seems lately that our nation has had all eyes on its children, who are speaking loudly and in unison about their need for safety and an end to the violence besieging them, even in their once-safe school environments.

But we don’t have to look any further for action than our very own Newport students at Pell Elementary School, as they hold their torches high to make a difference. These students and teachers are setting an example of kindness and gratitude through a program called Look for the Good.

Pell is the first school in Rhode Island to implement the program, and the response by both students and staff has been enormously positive.

Jeannine Walsh, third grade teacher, is the teacher leader of the Look for the Good Program at Pell. “I feel that [the students] have been more accepting of each other. New friendships have formed. Kids want to come to school. It’s been amazing,” she said.

The Connecticut-based nonprofit’s mission is “to create school programs and awareness campaigns around the core belief that gratitude changes mindsets, reduces violence, and improves everything.” Founder and CEO, Anne Kubitsky established the K-6 program as a 501(c)(3) in 2014 and since then it has impacted over 44,000 children.

The two-week gratitude program is comprised of three areas: gratitude spots, “You Matter Cards,” and gratitude letters.

Gratitude spots are placed on the floor in common areas of the school. When students pass over them, they pause and think of something that they are grateful for. These moments of gratitude can be written down on sticky notes and are then displayed on one of the designated “gratitude walls” in the school.

“You Matter Cards” are passed from student to student. The giver tells the recipient why he or she is receiving the card, perhaps due to a kindness that was witnessed or for the purpose of relaying a great trait of the recipient.

Students can write gratitude letters to people they are grateful to have in their lives. They give the letters to the recipients at the end of the two weeks.

In addition to increasing kindness, gratitude, and a whole host of positives that can arise out of a program like Look for the Good, it also serves as an early warning system for teachers and administrators, as teachers can track that children are not receiving “You Matter Cards” or are not writing any grateful thoughts on sticky notes.

Walsh sees this as a tool to intervene at an earlier age. “We need to bring these [observations] to grade level meetings and use this program to look for those outliers and [help] them.

“You need to start at the lower level; you don’t want to wait. Let’s catch them early and keep doing this program to help [the students] believe in themselves.”

As for the students, their appreciation for the program seems unanimous. “I think it’s great that we have this program because kids can say and do things so other people can see what they are grateful for,” said third grader, Stella Grayko.

Her classmate, Jack Rosa, explained, “I like it because people are thinking about you.”

The older students enjoy the responsibility they have to the younger students who look to them as examples of how to behave and treat others. Grayko explained the responsibility she feels. “I saw a [little child] in my after-school class doing something they weren’t supposed to be doing, and I knew a lot of them followed me, so I went on the gratitude spot and that student came over and did the same exact thing. So, they do follow the things we do sometimes.”

The gratitude spots seem to subconsciously follow the students throughout the day as their kindness and generosity emanates into other areas of their lives, both at school and at home.

“After the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, there was all this trash in the street,” said Anna Grayko, Stella’s sister, “and there were all these people just coming over and helping to pick it up. I did too,” she said.

Joao Paes commented about his friend Jack, “When I ask him to play basketball, he always says yes, all the time.”

The children think the feeling of gratitude and kindness will continue long after the two-week program period is over. “It’s probably going to start encouraging other people to do it in other schools and tell other people about it so they can do it,” said Paes.

“Maybe people in their houses could do it,” said Anna Grayko.

“The program is connecting the children to more than just themselves,” Walsh said, adding, “It’s building their confidence. They know that other people care about them... It’s helping them look for the good. When they search for the good, they become the good.”

For more information, visit lookforthegood.org.

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