Circleville Elementary School – For educators the heart of teaching lies within books. Every day we teach and learn through books. One of the greatest joys of teaching is the moment when a child’s face lights up because they just received the message delivered in a book. Books are the means by which we receive someone else’s message. We read the words out loud or to ourselves so that we can connect to the author’s purpose. That very connection is what led to our 1st grade community service project entitled “Sharing Shoes.”
In the middle of winter I chose to read the book ‘The Lady in the Box’ by Ann McGovern to each first grade class. Each time that I choose a book it is with the hope that at least one child will have a personal connection to the central message of the book. With McGovern’s story, it was the hope that students would see how important it is to reach out to people who have less than we have. We have talked all year about our purpose as students and as human beings. We are here to make others feel important…to give to others what we can…and to not waste time in those efforts.
As I visited each classroom the children began to talk about what they could do to help people who are homeless. They realized that they did not have money of their own to give as 6 and 7-year-olds, but they also realized that they might have useful things to gift to another person. It was decided that shoes would be a good choice because most of the children could honestly say that they had some shoes they did not need anymore.
In one class a girl was really excited and said that we could make flyers to let people know what we were doing with our efforts. So, once we decided on the best time to do the shoe drive we invited all of the first grade classes to make a flyer that included pertinent information. We received many flyers. Teachers chose one winner from each classroom to have their flyers printed for distribution to other grade levels. These students were recognized and given a sneaker key chain as a prize.
We contacted our parents on the Class Dojo school messaging app and on Twitter to encourage them to support their children’s community service project. We received some thoughtful responses from parents who were glad to see us setting the tone of giving for their students.
Next, we needed to think about where the shoes would go. I was at our elementary school’s ‘Darlings and Donuts event’ and asked the ABC Club president if she knew of any organization that could use children’s shoes. She excitedly said “Yes. The new youth drop-in center Foundations4Youth will be opening soon and they could probably use something like that!” Right away we contacted our school resource liaison, Officer McIntyre who is involved with the center, and he came to see me. Now we had one place to send our shoes.
We also thought of our local shelter in the Haven House and contacted them. They were so happy to hear that we not only had children’s shoes, but some women’s shoes as well. We now had two places to send our shoes!
As we collected shoes I saw that we had many pairs of men’s sneakers. I knew that the Pickaway County Jail accepted shoe donations for their inmates who are released and don’t have proper footwear. One phone call later we were sending shoes to them as well. Now we had three places to send our shoes.
We also kept shoes for our own students at CES. We have all seen the student who loses the sole of a shoe or who came to school in flip flops and they break…with no other shoes to change into. We were able to keep shoes of all sizes right here. Now we had a fourth place for our shoes.
After a week of collection we were able to send 300 pairs of shoes to local organizations. We had one class (Mrs. Akers’ class) that brought 82 pairs. The top donation came from a girl in that same class who contributed 14 pairs. The ABC club will be providing a pizza lunch for the class as a reward for their efforts and the top winner will receive two brand new pairs of shoes and a gift card.
The best part of this whole project was seeing the faces of children when they brought in their donated shoes. They were so proud. Whether it was one pair or 10, it did not matter. They would track me down to tell me that they had shoes on a given day. They all received a paper shoe pattern to decorate each time that they brought in a pair of shoes. These are being displayed in the first grade hallway. They were never told that we were going to recognize the class with the most shoes or the person with the most shoes. They gave because they wanted to give. They were happy to have a paper shoe to decorate. They got it. The message of the book we read was simple…give to others without expectation.
We were happy to open up the project to staff and children in other grade levels. It was their contributions that helped us make it to the 300 shoes threshold. The first grade had about 170 pairs on their own.
The first book I ever read to the first grade students this year was ‘The Three Questions’ based on the writing of Leo Tolstoy. We go back to those questions throughout the year because they should be in the forefront of our lives and minds every day. The questions and answers are so simple…
When is the right time to do things? Now.
Who is the most important one? The one at your side.
What is the right thing to do? That which benefits the one at your side.
Mr. Tolstoy tells us…that is why we are here.
On behalf of the 1st grade team and Circleville Elementary, we would like to extend a thank you to each and every student, family, and community member who participated in our shoe drive. Every day we try to instill in our students our Tiger Traits that call to “Be respectful. Be responsible. And Be Safe” in all that we do. This project was an extension of those traits and I am incredibly proud of our students for developing this student-led project.
1st Grade Intervention/Title Reading Specialist
Circleville Elementary School