How Full Is Your Bucket?

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I recently had the privilege of spending a day at Meskwaki Settlement School in Tama, IA. I was asked to speak about the importance of school climate. Hopefully, I shared a few tips that my new friends can use. While I was speaking, a longtime teacher asked if I knew about the “Theory of the Bucket and the Dipper.” This is a simple but powerful theory, which actually formed the foundation for the culture building at Davis County Middle School in Bloomfield, IA several years ago. This post is for anyone who has never heard of this theory created by the late Donald Clifton.

I will take the description right from the Gallup poll website:

The Theory of the Dipper and the Bucket

Each of us has an invisible bucket. It is constantly emptied or filled, depending on what others say or do to us. When our bucket is full, we feel great. When it’s empty, we feel awful.

Each of us has an invisible dipper. When we use that dipper to fill other people’s buckets — by saying or doing things to increase their positive emotions — we also fill our own bucket. But when we use that dipper to dip from others’ buckets — by saying or doing things that decrease their positive emotions — we diminish ourselves.

Like the cup that runneth over, a full bucket gives us a positive outlook and renewed energy. Every drop in that bucket makes us stronger and more optimistic.

But an empty bucket poisons our outlook, saps our energy, and undermines our will. That’s why every time someone dips from our bucket it hurts us.

So we face a choice every moment of every day: We can fill one another’s buckets, or we can dip from them. It’s an important choice, one that profoundly influences our relationships, productivity, health, and happiness.

The challenge:

  • How could you implement this theory into the culture of your school?
  • Would this make sense to staff and students?
  • Did you know students could write drops to their teachers?
  • As a leader, will you confront staff members who are always dipping from others?
  • Do you thank staff members who are constantly filling students’ bucket?
  • Have you considered students who come to school with empty buckets due to their home situation?
  • Would it help to your school culture if you increased the amount of bucket filling happening at your school?
  • Could a positive phone call home fill our parents’ buckets?

See Java with Joel video for a bucket filling opportunity!

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As always, I leave you with an exercise that you can do with your school staff to help remind educators why we are in the business of making the world a better place.

#Oneperson Action Item

Java with Joel

Could you do something like this?

Btw…. My tech coach, Alecia Gardner, helped me with this video:

Bucket Filling is all about Emotional Intelligence!



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