As the mother of eight, if I’ve done the calculations correctly, I’ve attended over 65 open houses to date at the beginning of each new school year. These events are certainly status quo but are also pivotal landmarks of how quickly time passes in our young children’s lives. One moment we are oohing and ahhing at the self-portraits they’ve created in kindergarten, and in no time at all we’re listening to their high school teacher explain the importance of molecular geometry configurations predicted using VSEPR theory. (I’ll take the kindergarten open houses any day of the week!)
It’s not that I don’t enjoy open houses, but because I’ve gone to so many, sadly most are now just a blur. (Sorry, don’t mean to sound so callous!) This fall, however, I walked away from my first grader’s with an experience that left me absolutely tingling—and no, her teacher wasn’t serving wine!
Annie and I arrived a bit late for what was one of the most important nights of her 6-year old life! Due to scheduling conflicts with four of my other kids needing to all be someplace at the same time, the norm for our family, I won’t lie to you, I was operating on a very empty fuel tank by the time we got to school. I prayed I wouldn’t fall asleep as Annie proudly escorted me for a tour of her library, gym, music and art room, even the cafeteria, nurse’s office, and janitor’s storage rooms all before the grand finale—a full-fledged visit to her amazing first grade classroom. Here I met her teachers’, sat at her desk, got a tour of the centers she works at, and had the opportunity to mingle with all the perky first grade moms as we basked in the delicious atmosphere that our first graders enjoy all day long!
In between yawns I managed to stay engaged as Annie flitted from one corner of the classroom to the next, barely able to contain herself because of the pride she felt sharing her first grade world with me. I was planning our exit strategy when I was drawn to a colorful sign that read “Is Your Bucket Full Today?” I wanted to know what a bucket had to do with first grade and what the heck it was filled with, but Annie whisked me away to see her book basket, and that was the end of the bucket!
Finally, once things settled down, Annie excitedly began to share with me what the bucket message was all about. It turns out that our first graders were introduced to a very special, thought provoking book called How Full is Your Bucket? For Kids, written by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer. This delightfully illustrated story is not your ordinary childhood read it’s something much more. Based on the NY Times bestseller, How Full is Your Bucket, written by Tom Rath, it takes us through the day of a young boy named Felix and the discovery of his invisible bucket.
The story opens with Felix enjoying building a huge tower with his blocks only to be interrupted by his little sister who wants to join in on the fun too. Felix wanted no part of it, in fact, he wasn’t very nice about letting her know she was much too little of a squirt to help with his awesome tower causing, you guessed it, the two to squabble where eventually that nice tower got knocked over leaving both siblings distressed and upset.
This charming book explains to children how being kind not only helps others, it helps them, too. As he goes about his day, Felix interacts with different people — his sister Anna, his grandfather, other family and friends. Some people are happy, but others are sad or mean. Using the metaphor of a bucket and dipper, Felix’ grandfather explains why the happy people make Felix feel good, while the others leave him feeling bad — and how Felix himself is affecting others, whether he means to or not. He does this by patiently explaining to Felix that we all have an invisible bucket. When our bucket is empty, we feel badly, but when it’s full, we feel great. He urges Felix to notice how full his own bucket is throughout the day.
The author uses “drips” and “drops” to explain negative and positive interactions. It is so simple yet so brilliant that after I read the book in Annie’s classroom, I left feeling completely reenergized but mostly ashamed of myself for secretly resenting the fact that I had to spend my already crazy evening attending yet another one of these events, not even considering that it was such a big night for her. Sigh!
However, just as Felix learned, when our own bucket is full, we can help fill another’s and another’s which ultimately helps to keep our own bucket full! How neat is that?
This Thanksgiving I’m placing a big bucket in the center of our family feast which will hold eight copies of this remarkable book, one for each of my children. After we say Grace I’ll let Annie read the story aloud, in hopes that we not only fill our plates with turkey and mashed potatoes, but going forward we will also fill one another’s buckets while filling our own.
Copyright 2012 Cheryl L. Butler