SOUTH GLENS FALLS, NY — At the Tanglewood Elementary School, students are encouraged to fill their buckets.
This year, the school is promoting a philosophy that uses an invisible bucket as a metaphor for one’s feelings.
When the bucket is full, a person feels great. But when it’s empty, a person feels sad or upset.
On Monday, students learned about “bucket-filling” and its importance from Faith Smith, the regional director with Bucketfillers for Life Inc., an organization that promotes the message at schools and companies.
Smith, who has spoken at schools throughout the state and in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, presented the concept to fourth- and fifth-graders in the morning and students from kindergarten to third grade in the afternoon. A session with parents was planned for the evening.
“You guys want to live a happy life. How do you do that? Live your life as a bucket-filler,” she told students.
Smith encouraged the kids to be nice to others and show respect. Those made to feel happy, respected and appreciated have their buckets filled. But the person expressing the generosity – known as a “bucket-filler” – also feels the effects.
“Bucket-filling is always sincere. It is genuine and it comes from the heart,” Smith said. “Every day, bucket-filling is easy. If you choose to live your life as a bucket-filler, then you will have a happy life. The choice is yours to make.”
There are also “bucket-dippers” – people who are mean to others. Another name for a bucket-dipper is a bully, Smith said.
After hearing this, a fourth-grader said Osama Bin Laden was a “big bucket-dipper.”
Smith reminded students they are responsible for their actions and the consequences. Each person has the power to make choices that affect others, she said.
During the one-hour presentation to 145 fourth- and fifth-graders, Smith had
students select a person they love and respect and write down the reasons for their feelings.
Students were picked at random to read their reasons. Many chose their mom or dad. A fourth-grade girl chose her best friend, who was in the room to hear her announce her reasons.
As a homework assignment, Smith said each student had to read their reasons to the person they wrote about. That person would then fill out a form stating how they felt. Students will turn in the forms to their teachers.
Jamie Metivier, a reading teacher, said assemblies will be conducted every six weeks to celebrate bucket-filling. The school will also start a “bucket-filler of the week” contest to honor a different student who practices good behavior.
The school lacks the staff to address school violence and bullying, Metivier said. But students taught at a young age about kindness and respect are more likely to maintain that behavior when they’re older.
Tanglewood is the only school in the district practicing bucket-filling. But each school has taken steps to address bullying and cyberbulling and to teach good behavior, how to cope with grief and ways to identify people who are depressed.
These efforts have picked up over the last two years, as the district has dealt with the deaths of students and employees. At least six students have died since 2009 through automobile accidents or suicides.
Different speakers have come to the schools to discuss bullying. Across the district, students and adults have started using the slogan “bulldog pride.” The catchphrase references the district’s mascot and is meant to represent respect, responsibility, trust and leadership.
At the high school, students are being taught to take on leadership roles. Last year, students started a pledge program called iRefuse, in which they refuse to be a bully or allow bullies to harm others.
Jean Tedesco, the assistant superintendent, said the district will continue to address bullying, especially as technology improves.
Cellphones, emails and social networking websites have made it easy for students to bully others, creating conflicts that escalate at school.
“We can never do enough,” Tedesco said.