Bucket Fillers


On Thursday, Jan. 14, we had a convocation titled “Champions Together.” The entire convocation was about how the IHSAA partnered with Special Olympics Indiana to help unite students with and without disabilities. It was inspiring to see Mitch Bonar, a Special Olympian who recently graduated from Noblesville High School, get up in front of a packed gym and tell his story of how “Champions Together” made a difference not only in his life, but in the lives of those who participated in the program at his high school.  Hearing him recount the memories of “friends” asking him to do certain things just to get a good laugh was heartbreaking. It is hard to believe that there are people in the world who get a kick out of hurting others. I didn’t know Mitch Bonar before he came our school on Thursday, but I am proud of him for what he is doing. It isn’t easy to get up in front of a crowd of over 600 students and teachers and tell about difficult times that you had to endure. Not only was I proud of Mitch for taking a stand, I was proud of the students at ICHS. They did a phenomenal job during the convocation. I spoke to several students afterwards who said they were touched by what was discussed and shared with me an interest in getting involved to help the “inclusion revolution,” as Mitch would say.

One other topic that stuck out to me was the fact that we had three student leaders get up and talk about how they have already gotten involved and how all of ICHS can get involved with “Champions Together.” When Lee Lonzo, Director of Champions Together, was speaking with the three students, each of them talked about how they have been impacted by the students they work with. They enjoy helping not only because it makes the other students happy, but it makes them feel good. This concept is explained in great detail in the book entitled How Full is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath. These students explained the concept of bucket filling. If you haven’t read this book before, I highly recommend it. It is one of my personal favorites. In fact, I liked it so much that I used the concept in my classroom on a yearly basis. There are even children’s books that explain the concept of bucket filling.

Bucket filling isn’t a difficult concept to understand, so let me briefly recap what it all means. We all have an invisible bucket. The bucket is constantly being filled or emptied by our interactions with others. If the bucket is full, we are generally happy and feel good. If the bucket is empty, we are usually sad or upset. When people say or do nice things to us, our bucket gets filled up. If people say or do mean things to us, our bucket gets emptied. One cool concept though is that you can fill your own bucket by filling other people’s buckets. If I say and do nice things for others, I feel better and I start filling my own bucket. Simple, right?

In How Full is Your Bucket?, Tom Rath explains how he worked with his grandfather Don Clifton to come up with the book. The book is a simplified version of what Don Clifton discovered in his life’s work in the field of psychology. One paragraph always sticks out to me when reading the book:

Early in his research, Don discovered that our lives are shaped by our interactions with others. Whether we have a long conversation with a friend or simply place an order at a restaurant, every interaction makes a difference. The results of our encounters are rarely neutral; they are almost always positive or negative. And although we take these interactions for granted, they accumulate and profoundly affect our lives.

Think of all of the interactions educators have with students, parents and fellow educators. We have an amazing opportunity in our professional lives to fill many buckets. We can have a huge impact on others’ lives just by our interactions with them. Let’s make sure our interactions with others are positive. Let’s make sure we are filling other people’s buckets as much as possible. When we do that, not only will others feel good, but we will all be walking around with full buckets. What would a school look like if every student and every teacher had a full bucket? I’m not sure what it would look or feel like, but I would love to find out!


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