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Writing Their Own Stories

Empathy. Respect. Confidence. Courage. Perseverance.

The concepts have a life at PD extending far beyond posters on the walls or words on a website. Lower School faculty start teaching them in the earliest days of TK and kindergarten and continue up through fifth-grade graduation. When students progress to middle and upper school, they go on to learn more sophisticated lessons in social responsibility — a major academic focus at Providence Day.

But first, it starts with a journal. Following an activity or discussion — students view a skit, or participate in activities such as making cards for hospitalized kids at Levine Children’s hospital, or hear a lesson designed by Jenny Tucker, assistant head of lower school, or Margot Brinley, lower school counselor — it’s time to reflect and write or draw something about how the concept applies to their own lives.

“You’re demonstrating your growth and your level of engagement and responsibility to others through what you wrote in the journal,” says Erica Katz, a second-grade teacher and the Lower School representative on the school-wide Social Responsibility committee. “What they share is just so endearing and thoughtful.”

Read on for some of the reflections in this year’s “Write Your Own Story” journals.


“Empathy means thinking about others feelings. Empathy means caring for people. Empathy is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. We made art with our 4th grade buddies for children in the hospital to make them happy and to bring a smile to their faces.” —C., 1st grade

“When my grandfather passed away a few years ago I was really sad. It was the saddest thing that ever happened to me. Then when my friend’s grandfather passed away I could relate to her and I knew how she felt.” —S., 4th grade

“I showed empathy when one of my running backs at my tackle football game got hit helmet to helmet and he had to sit out on the bench for the rest of the game...I wasn’t in so I sat with him and (talked) with him.” —J., 2nd grade

“One time everyone in the whole 3rd grade was talking nonstop except me and some other people. I was frustrated. The teacher even had to yell ’BOYS AND GIRLS, BE QUIET!’...Then finally everyone was quiet but I did feel just how I knew my teacher felt, frustrated.” —H., 3rd grade


“Jane Goodall used courage when she traveled to Africa. I used courage when I broke my arm by being brave. Amelia Earhart used courage when she drove her plane even though people said she couldn’t.” —A., 1st grade

“There was a very scary waterslide. It took me four days to build up the courage to go on it. After that I loved it. I went on it 11 times.” —L., 2nd grade

“One time I was too afraid of trying my bike without training wheels but then I said ’Okay, I’ll give it a try.’ And I did, then my dad let go, I was doing it!” —H., 3rd grade

“I had courage when I was six because I use to sleep with a light but now I don’t and it took courage to sleep in the dark.” —N., 2nd grade

“Courage is being an upstander. Courage is standing up for what is right….Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used courage because he was brave to work peacefully to make the world a better place.” —D., 1st grade


“I used confidence today by standing in front of an audience. I spoke loud and proud and smiled with joy. I knew I had practiced and prepared. We were confident as a team….We used confidence by doing our personal best and supporting each other.” —A., 1st grade


“My friend showed respect when I was talking and she wanted to say something, but she let me talk.” —E., 2nd grade

“I can show respect by being respectful of the classroom and cleaning up after myself so I have a clean classroom.”
—N., 2nd grade

“One time I was on the playground at Extended Day. I had no one to play with. Then A. came up to me and said ’Do you want to play with me?’ I said ’Yes!’ Then he asked me ’Do you want to play ninjas?’ I said ’Sure!’...And we played and played.” —H., 3rd


“One day I was on the monkey bars. I failed and failed and failed again….In my head I started to think ’I can’t do this.’ But I kept on thinking and I thought ’I can’t do this….yet.’ So I kept on trying and I finally made it.” —R., 3rd grade

The Wrinkled Heart

It’s a day in the life of a Providence Day student, as demonstrated by a large red heart made of construction paper.

Bad things happen. Students say unkind or disrespectful things. Each time, the heart is folded. By the end of the day’s events, the paper heart is crumpled into a big red ball.

But there’s a time machine. The student goes back in time and gets to live the day again. People learn empathy and make different choices, pay compliments, and say kind things. The paper is gradually unfolded, one part at a time through the day’s events, until it is a heart shape once more.

But the heart is not perfect. The lines where it was folded are still there. Because of its encounters with unkindness, the heart remains wrinkled.

The moral of the story, says Jenny Tucker, assistant head of lower school, who tells
this tale during character education lessons: “Before you speak, think and be smart.
It’s hard to fix a wrinkled heart.”

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