The Ripple Effect

download (1)I love this quote. It often guides how I try to meet the day, especially when working in my lovely school. I think Love Bomb week breathed life into this intention for our whole school community. The week before midterm can, at times, be a week you drag yourself to Friday but I think the positive energy that we all intentionally channeled into that week inspired many magic moments – the little ones, the ones that may not make a speech but can lift a heart on an ordinary school day.

keep-calm-and-sparkle-on-67The lovely Helen (my Thelma to the Louise of Love Bomb Week 🙂 )and I bought decorations- hearts and stickers galore. Others joined in decorating the staff room on the Monday morning and sure we were off to a great start. Tanya and her students had cut out one hundred and fifty love heart shaped paper for what I call sparkle statements. This is a statement that is honest, specific and kind- that would make someone’s spirit sparkle. This really falls in line with the restorative aim of proactively and deliberately building social capital and cultivating community. I’d bought mini love hearts sweets that rested in a bowl beside the blank hearts/markers and staff were invited to take a sweet and write a sparkle.

There was some fellow ‘Oprah-loving-pals’ like myself that couldn’t wait to grab a marker, there were some giggles, a few gentle accusations of sweet bribery and I’m sure the odd raised eyebrow could be witnessed:-). Overall, a big feel good hit I think. 738bd8142bcd37933814782f676ce045-300x200One member of staff came to me and told me she had been a little dubious about the idea of Love Bomb week but she wanted to tell me that she’d just received a sparkle from someone that she’d had tense words with in a meeting. She said the person thanked her for being such an amazing Head of Department and that she may never have known this unless she had been sparkled. The fact that her colleague consciously chose her images (2)to sparkle meant a lot. It’s stories like these that inspire me to continue to seek innovative ways to promote restorative practices. It simply feels good and this creates interactions and learning experiences that feel good. I want to feel good and be part of the reason others do the same. I think it’s that simple. The proactive restorative intention helps us to vibrate at a higher frequency and to keep the ripple moving downstream.

I knew that the Google Doc questionnaire that students were using to Love Bomb their teachers was scheduled all week. The night before Love Bomb week began I spoke to my insightful friend Sharon. She had loved the idea but pointed out that the fact that it was mainly anonymous would dilute its impact when it was fed back to teachers. I knew this to be true but couldn’t think how to structure an alternative. When I arrived to school that morning, the feel good energy inspired me to invite my first years to write the name of each of their teachers on a page and to write a sparkle about that person if they chose to. They LOVED it! They broadened the vision and suggested that we add in the care takers, secretary and management team.
cc4763c205c90572c88f6dfb85f17ec5They were in flow, the ripple was expanding.
It was brilliant to see the joy on the Liam’s (one of our caretaker) face when he told me what the students said about him. The auxiliary staff in our school foster fantastic relationships with our students and the Love Bomb initiative was allowing a space to acknowledge the little acts of kindness or the daily friendly banter that makes a real difference to how our students feel when they are in our school building.

The personalised Love Bomb sheets were the biggest hit. Once the students had written a comment on each page they then delivered them to the teacher saying “You’ve just been love bombed by 1B, pay it forward” (thanks to lovely Lydia for helping out). Fresh bamboo leaves over waterI was impressed when two boys, who can be challenging and often find themselves before their Year Head, absolutely jumped from their chair to volunteer to deliver his Love Bomb Sheet. I happened to walk by when he received it and I saw his eyes light up, the smile he gave the boys. I loved that this prompted a positive dialogue between him and these students who usually reside at the top of Morrison’s Pyramid. This could indeed just be a moment on a corridor but we have no idea of the new dynamic it may offer, how the students may see themselves.

il_570xN.487914151_rtvhThe feel good vibes that I witnessed or that bounced back to me are hard to do justice here. I had no way of structuring/controlling the momentum of this but I just hoped it would take off and I do hope it reached everybody. All I could do is trust the pebble would start the ripple. I received some lovely sheets back unnamedand it was the positive chat around the our lunch room table. The students’ sparkles not only make you feel like a million dollars, it develops the emotional literacy skills of our young people and offers them that addictive ‘helper’s high’. The Science of Happiness confirms that gratitude is the key to feeling good. Many teachers commented on how amazing they were, that they’d pinned them up in their room. I now keep mine on my notice board too to inspire a smile as I pass. My pal told me on Friday, two weeks later, that she’d had a tough day at school and sat down that evening and read her three love bombs sheets and it totally shifted her mood. Once again, this illustrates the far reaching impact of one little intention.

As the week progressed the ripples were creating fun waves about the place. The talented Irish Department had a Valentine’s speed dating event and cake sale. By Friday my dear friend Ciara was even sporting a love heart jumper and the talented Lorna made a heart shaped chocolate cake for the staff and advertised a games lunch for a Fun Friday  – we roared laughing at the antics of Taboo and charades. The cherry on the top of that Love Bomb lunch was when our principal delivered handmade, individualised thank you notes/decorations for every single member of staff with a mini bar of dark chocolate attached – imagine the time and energy that went into that! images (3)I bet there is a lot of magic that went on that week that I don’t know about to share here; that undoubtedly takes place all year around, not dependent on an initiative like this. Of course our school is far from perfect, there is upset, discontent and disharmony at times. But there is always great love and community, especially when you deliberately focus your lens upon it. That is what Love Bomb week was about- the little ‘miracles’. A Course in Miracles defines miracles as a shift in perception from fear to love. For me, on a personal spiritual level, this is the essence of RP. It’s why I know it has so much to offer us all, in our schools and in our world. I am grateful for what RP serves me through the benevolent view it fosters. This is why I will continue to serve it through initiatives like Love Bomb – who knows where the next wave will bring us!

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About mstowerp

I am a teacher and restorative practice practitioner, trainer and consultant. I am currently on career break but have been an active champion and coordinator of Restorative Practice (RP) in my school since 2010. Since that time I have become an accredited trainer and also completed a thesis in RP for my Masters in Education. This consisted of an action research project that involved working with teachers to initiate, implement and evaluate the use of RP in their classrooms. I am currently working part tim ein Maynooth and many Education Centres training teachers in RP. Contact me if you are interested in finding out information about training or consultancy. I am passionate about creating well-being and happiness in the work place; and particularly interested in re-culturing schools and cultivating a restorative paradigm shift. My intention is to use this forum to share the work we did as a community of teachers with others and to promote RP, well-being and community. Being involved with this work allows me to feel that the life that I am living is the same as the life that wants to live in me. I am grateful for this.
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