One Woman’s Mission to Find a Teachable Moment Through Tragedy

Election Day is tomorrow, but starting today through November 20th, you can take part in another worthwhile voting process. The L’Oréal Paris Women of Worth program celebrates women who are striving to make a difference in the world. Each of the 10 honorees will automatically receive a $10,000 donation to their cause. Then, through your votes, one woman will be recognized as the 2013 Women of Worth National Honoree and her charity will receive an additional $25,000 donation.

 

All of this year’s honorees are truly deserving of the recognition. We’ve decided to highlight one woman whose cause is top of mind as we near the one-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. Kaitlin Roig DeBellis of Greenwich, Connecticut is a first-grade teacher who was teaching at Sandy Hook the day of the horrific shootings. Just a few months after the tragedy, she founded Classes 4 Classes, which encourages K-8 classrooms across the country to do acts of kindness for each other, such as helping to raise money for another class to go on a field trip or get new textbooks. The receiving class then works on a “thank you” project for the giving class. In essence, Roig DeBellis is teaching the principle of “paying it forward” on a daily basis.  We asked the inspiring 30-year-old to share more about her cause.

What has the response been from students and teachers involved in Classes 4 Classes?

Overwhelmingly positive. One student remarked, ”It’s good to help other people, because it makes them feel good, and it makes us feel good too!” Teachers report that Classes 4 Classes has changed the overall climate and culture within their classrooms. They say the lesson far outreached the time they spent on the project itself. It spread to the hallways, the cafeteria, the playground. This is exactly what I want every K-8 student to be able to experience: authentic giving and compassion for others.

How many classrooms throughout the country are currently participating in Classes 4 Classes?

At the time of our initial launch back in April, we had 28 classrooms involved in projects on our Classes 4 Classes site. We’re working to spread awareness across the country so that every K-8 classroom is involved in Classes 4 Classes. There is no reason why every classroom can’t participate, as there is no financial responsibility on the teacher, students, school, or parents. All projects are crowd funded in increments of $1, until completely funded.

In addition to helping students connect and give, what are your broader goals with Classes 4 Classes?

When it comes down to it, teaching students a social curriculum is about making sure they are socially aware. Aware of what makes us different, what unites us as one, and being accepting of both. Understanding when someone is down, upset, or happy and proud—and knowing the appropriate reaction to have to each. Seeing another kid on the playground all alone, and being able to empathize, understanding the loneliness that child must be experiencing. Being able to go over and say, “Hey, would you like to play?”

It may seem so obvious to us as adults that these lessons can be forgotten or get scrimped. But then again 1+1=2 and A comes before B are also very simple lessons. But where would we be if we hadn’t learned those simplest of lessons?

 

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