Filling Buckets

Sometimes it can be hard learning how to grow from our mistakes

High school is a special place that I am very fortunate to have the experience of attending. I will forever be grateful for all of the knowledge and growth this school has given me. Throughout my twelve years of schooling I’ve made so many mistakes and matched each one with triumph, I’ve learned how to grow from these failures, and turn them into confidence to keep going. My school has shown me a small portion of how expansive and progressive “the real world” can be, while also never letting me forget how badly “the real world” can let me down. 

Being let down never gets easier, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve noticed it’s popularity has only grown. Unlike the majority of kids I go to school with, I didn’t have the honor of being raised in California with the nice schools and even nicer parents, so I spent my elementary and middle school years in Washington state. There I went to Beacon Hill Elementary, where I would be let down for the first time in a small fragment of “the real world”. 

I’ve always adored being social and whenever I would talk too much in class my teachers would send me to the office to get a break from my constant conversation.

Making friends has always been very natural for me, I’ve always adored being social and whenever I would talk too much in class my teachers would send me to the office to get a break from my constant conversation. I was in first grade and it was the first day back from summer vacation, all the students in my class were meeting each other for essentially the first time as we had only known each other through our kindergarten classes. 

My teacher was younger, so she knew how to have fun while maintaining a stern undertone. My class took her very seriously from the beginning. On the first day she made all of us cut out a bucket with a large smiley face on it, and color it based on what we thought our personalities were. I obviously colored mine every color of the rainbow because there weren’t enough colors in the whole world to capture who I was in first grade. 

My teacher then hung all of our buckets on a bulletin board lined with a star-striped border, and dubbed the artwork the “Fill Your Bucket Wall”. The goal of this activity was for students to leave anonymous comments in each other’s buckets that were uplifting and kind. Our teacher wanted us to fill each other’s buckets, but as you can imagine, anonymous notes and children don’t mesh nicely. 

The idea started off nicely, we all took part in leaving our friends funny little notes in their buckets, but for the most part our teacher left the majority of the comments. She would leave comments in particular for the one girl and boy that got the highest score for the arguably stupid star math and AR reading tests, and announce the scores to the class. The best part was at the end of the day after she announced whoever won, she would leave a note in their bucket that was personally signed by her! It meant the world to our class receiving these letters from her, and obviously I won every month. 

I read like crazy when I was younger, so I always had an absurd amount of AR points at the end of each month. I was seven years old, reading like an eleventh grader, of course I was going to win. Three months in a row I won, and I loved the glory, the letters, the fame, I couldn’t get enough of it, but with my newfound fame came jealousy. There was another girl in my class who read just as much as me, except she hadn’t figured out my shortcut. 

In order to load up on AR points I would read a bunch of short stories and chapter books, kids books. I knew these books were easily comprehensible and I could read a lot of them in a short amount of time, so that’s exactly what I did. I kept up with my regular Magic Treehouse reading schedule outside of my AR grind, which added even more points each month. The problem with this other girl was she was reading the Warriors series, which is a pretty big book that has lots of sequels to read through for a first grader. I understand why she chose that series though, I loved those damn cats with all my heart. 

When the fourth month of school wrapped up I was eager to receive my custom note and announcement during class, however I didn’t receive the award, the Warriors girl did. This event absolutely crushed my soul, and was probably the first ego death I’d ever experienced. I didn’t understand how she accomplished this, I had my system that allowed me to do half the work with all the reward, and it was snatched up from underneath of me, stolen! I was so mad I didn’t even congratulate her, instead I wrote a note. 

I used a teal crayon and some lined paper and wrote something ugly, and I put it in her bucket. I was jealous, mad, and I didn’t know why I lost, so during recess I decided to stay inside and ask my teacher how I was beaten. She told me the obvious, that the girl had a higher score than me, but she also told me that even though I lost, that didn’t mean my hard work went unnoticed. She then sent me outside to play, but her answers only made me feel worse.

The next day I came to school feeling empty and defeated. I arrived at class where my teacher immediately pulled me into the hall and asked me if I had anything I wanted to tell her. I obviously told her no, but when she pulled my note addressed to the Warriors girl out of her pocket I knew there was no point in lying. I told her how I honestly felt, which she recognized, but she also taught me the importance of filling other peoples buckets. She taught me that filling somebody else’s bucket will eventually fill my own bucket, because our kindness is shared and not given. 

I felt bad for leaving the note, I thought about all the months the Warriors girl had watched me win using my cheat code, and she never left me a bad note.

I felt bad for leaving the note, I thought about all the months the Warriors girl had watched me win using my cheat code, and she never left me a bad note. Thankfully the girl never saw the note I left because my teacher was good at her job and made sure to check the buckets for ugly messages. Instead of writing an apology, we compiled a list of all of the amazing things about her, and anonymously submitted it to her bucket. I never got to see her reaction to the note, but overtime me and her got really close. We ended up bonding over the Warriors series which she introduced me to. 

I wasn’t home free though, I had to stay inside during our hour long lunch recess instead of playing like everybody else. Normally my teacher made us sit with our heads down and the lights off, but this time my teacher handed me a piece of paper and told me to spend the hour coloring it. The paper read, “Mistakes are just proof that you’re trying.” During that hour I thought about the meaning of this statement, obviously it’s okay to make mistakes, but I didn’t understand how I could profit from my mistakes. 

I finished my detention and my teacher hung my rainbow-colored drawing on the wall, right next to her desk. That meant a lot to me, because it was a statement that existed just between me and my teacher. Everytime I messed up, I’d always think of the sign she had me color in.

 Instead of feeling let down about the mistakes I was making, my first grade teacher taught me how to make something out of them. She taught me that sometimes emotions have to do with perspective, and sometimes changing my point of view could change an entire situation. She taught me how to harness these emotions with positivity, and how to keep filling up buckets. 

Everytime I recall this time period, I take away something new. There were so many things my teacher was trying to say to me, even though she only said a few words, she showed me how to be a good person. I still make lots of mistakes, and sometimes just trying doesn’t feel like enough, but at the end of the day I know I’m at least making progress. 

I learned that every moment can be a teachable moment, even the moments spent in High School. It all depends on your perspective, and how much you’re willing to fill somebody else’s bucket. My bucket is full for now with graduation caps and college acceptance letters, but I will never forget to try, and to always be kind.