Tomorrow is the end of another school year for my daughter Mac. She’s just finishing grade 3 and a year’s worth of schoolwork is coming home in her backpack. I always enjoy looking at my kids’ work, but this time there was something really cool…something that can teach us all an important lesson about teamwork.

In her bag was an envelope full of colored slips of paper, each with a handwritten note from a classmate. These are the result of a year long exercise called “bucket filler notes.” In the exercise, you get assigned one classmate per week. During the week, you watch the person and on the Friday, you write them a note. The note must be affirming and it must be sincere.

(Mac explained that it’s important to be sincere, because your classmate will see through your comments if they aren’t true. Saying something not true is worse than saying nothing at all.)

First, let me take a moment to thank her teacher, who is the most engaged educator I have encountered as a parent. This is only one example of how she is setting up our kids up not only with strong math, reading, and writing skills, but also with the skills for effective teamwork now and in the future. I wish more of our teachers were focused on these skills.

This weekend, I got to see a year worth of bucket filler notes about my kid. Every parent should be so fortunate! I learned that many of Mac’s schoolmates are impressed by her math skills. I learned that she doesn’t jump in when she knows the answer and that one boy really appreciates how that gives him time to respond. But here’s the one I was really wowed by.

Imagine if you could hold yourself to this standard…


“…you…give everyone a fresh start every morning.”

Wow! So I told her that I thought this was awesome and asked if that’s really what she does. This was her response…

“If you get into a fight, it can get bigger and it could turn into something they would remember. You don’t want that because it will be bad for both of you. Instead, you just try and start over the next day.”

I’m taking three things away from this.

  1. I need to start picking people at random and really paying attention to what’s great about them. Then I need to make the effort to tell them. Who wouldn’t want to read sincere and affirming things about themselves from their teammates?
  2. I need to press the reset button more often. Maybe every morning is a bit much to ask, but I need to make it possible for my relationships to change for the better. That’s not going to happen if I hang on to yesterday’s arguments.
  3. I need to keep having these kinds of conversations with my kids. Clearly a few of the messages are landing. And with the partnership of an amazing teacher, I think we’re contributing to one more team player in the world.


A few questions to ponder

What would be on your bucket filler notes? What do your teammates really admire and appreciate about you?

What would you say to others? Even for the teammates you struggle with, if you had to write something sincere and affirming about them, what would you write?

What could today be like if you gave everyone a fresh start?

Further Reading

How to Receive Feedback

Do you Want your Teammates to Help You or Hug You?

The Joy Project

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