Rocking Kindness

It all started with an idea on a stick in a date night jar at my bridal shower last June. Now it’s evolved into something much larger involving many rocks, sealants, paints, and tools. Oh, and now it’s also moving into the high school where I work. What is it? Painting rocks to spread random acts of kindness.

I began painting rocks as part of a date night idea with my wife. We bought a few rocks from Michael’s, and some paint pens. Bethany found that she didn’t have the patience for painting rocks, but I found a new hobby.


Cue the buying of many, many pounds of rocks, acrylic paints, brushes, paint pens, and more. I tried out new ideas, listened to others, and joined the RVA Rocks! group on Facebook. I began exploring parks in the Richmond, Virginia area and finding rocks along the way.

Painting rocks is part of a spreading random kindness movement. When someone paints a rock, they seal it up with a sealant and then release into the wild. The wild could be in random parks, outside of stores, or simply just handing off a rock to a random stranger on daily errands. There are, of course, places rocks cannot be placed, but as long as simple rules are followed, everyone benefits.


Online groups on social media have popped up to share the rock love. When rocks are found, they often ask the finder to post online to a group or hashtag to share with others. I am part of the RVA Rocks! group, so any rocks I paint have instructions to post to this particular Facebook page if found. Rock groups are also used to share the progress of rock projects of members before these treasures are released into the wild. Different groups may do other activities, such as host painting nights or trading meetups. They help to build the rock community in an area.


There are a few key things to remember about rocking and spreading random kindness. First, and foremost, is that it is about spreading random acts kindness and brightening up another person’s day. Anyone participating should remember that rocks won’t always be posted online to give notice that they were found. Participants should also remember that the goal is not to “hunt” rocks. The goal is to enjoy the local community and explore. If a rock is found, great. If not, then folks still had a chance to get out and explore. Finally, be kind and take only a little. Sometimes, a lot of rocks may be found. Most should end up rehidden, and only favorites kept. This keeps rocks in the wild spreading around and around. Often, I will rehide most in the location where I found them, take a few to keep, and a few to rehid in other locations. If you can’t remember these key points as you participate, spreading rock kindness may not be the right hobby for you.


Do you want to get started spreading rock kindness? Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Find some rocks. You can purchase rocks from Home Depot, Lowes, or landscaping places. Some folks use rocks they find in the wild or their backyards. Make sure your rocks are cleaned off!
  2. Buy acrylic paint & brushes. If you’re just getting started, you just need a few bottles of acrylic paint. Walmart sells Apple Barrel brand for 50 cents a bottle. Your brushes don’t have to be expensive either. You can buy a package of random sizes.
  3. Don’t forget the sealant! You’ll need to seal the rocks after they have had time to dry. You can use a spray sealant (I like Krylon Triple Thick Clear Glaze for the shine), or something like mod podge. Follow the directions, but make sure the paint on your rock has had time to dry!
  4. Paint your rocks. Have fun, and paint to your heart’s content. If you want to sketch a design, it helps to paint a thin base of white paint on the rock first, let dry, and then sketch.
  5. Label the back of the rock. After the front of the rock dries, don’t forget to tag the back of the rock. If you’re part of a rock group on social media, use their tag. Not part of one? Search to find one in your area. I usually write “Post to RVA Rocks on FB”. I also tag with my artist name, TheChespinKid, and add the year. Write whatever you like.
  6. Share your work with your rock group. This is optional, but if you’re part of a group, it’s fun to share the hard work you put into making that rock before releasing it into the wild. It also helps others to learn to recognize your work and style when rocks are posted as found.
  7. Release into the wild! Time to let that rock go. I find local parks to be my favorite place, but rocks can also be dropped while on errands. Be careful dropping rocks inside of stores. Most stores do not allow this, especially near food. State parks also do not allow rocks to be placed inside. If you’re not sure, ask someone in your rock group.
  8. Keep an eye out for shared rocks. If you asked for your rock to be posted to your rock group, keep an eye out for posted photos after you release the rock. However, keep in mind that 3 out of 4 times, your rock will not be posted as found to the group. That’s okay! Painting and hiding rocks are not about you or getting recognized by others. Remember, it’s always about kindness first.


If you get started with painting rocks, respond to this post and let me know. If you’d like to see more of my rock work, check me out on Instagram: TheChespinKid. If you have questions about rocking with kindness, just let me know!

Fluco Toolbox: Timeline JS

Welcome to Fluco Toolbox, a series of posts that showcases potential edtech tools for the Fluvanna County classroom. Each post will discuss the tool, the type of problems it can help solve, and how it can be used in the classroom. If you’re a Fluvanna County staff member and want to learn more about using the tool in your own classroom, please schedule to see your ITRT and we will develop professional development based around your needs. If you’ve stumbled upon this post and you’re not part of the district, no worries! Feel free to use the information provided to jumpstart your own research.

Have you ever wanted to have students do more than just another timeline on a poster? Have you ever wanted them to be able to create a timeline that was interactive with different multimedia elements embedded?

Today’s Fluco Toolbox tool is: Timeline JS

First, the basics:

Name: Timeline JS
URL: http://timeline.knightlab.com/
Cost: FREE
Problem this tool solves: Create interactive timelines rich with multimedia tools. These timelines can easily be shared and saved. The timeline is created using a Google Spreadsheet template.

When I first began teaching in 2009 (I know, I know, I’m young!), this was the kind of tool I wished was around back then. Who hasn’t given a project that involved creating a timeline? Chances are, students created a timeline for a project on paper or posterboard, and it only showcased the date, the importance of the date, and maybe an image. It was a static timeline, and pretty basic as far as the information it represented.

Fast forward to today. Timeline JS is more than just a static timeline with pictures and information. Now links, Google maps, videos, and more can be embedded within the timeline, which is created through a Google Spreadsheet template.

Before I delve into how to use the tool, check out some of these created samples:

Nelson Mandela’s Extraordinary Life: An Interactive Timeline
Revolutionary User Interfaces

Those are definitely a step up from the timelines of days gone by! This post will introduce creating a timeline, but it is highly recommended that you watch the How To video under Resources to guide you.

The first thing that must be done when creating a timeline is to copy the template that Knightlab provides on their website. It can be retrieved here. This will save a copy of the Google Spreadsheet to your Drive.


Once the template is downloaded, it’s time to edit the spreadsheet. Timeline JS instructs users to NOT edit anything in Row 1. These are the column headers, and should not be changed, as this will mess up the timeline. Though there is not a limit for how many slides can be used in a timeline, Knightlab recommends no more than 20 slides. This keeps the timeline from becoming too long and unengaging to the user.

Row 2 is where the timeline is begun. This will be the title slide in the timeline. Users should skip to Column J and give their timeline a title. Column K will provide a simple description of the timeline. Columns L-O deal with the media. This is where an image can be added. Provide the link to the image, and make sure to credit the creator.

Here is what mine looks like, both in spreadsheet and as a final timeline image. I have used an image that is saved on my Google Drive and shared publicly. There is no way to preview your timeline as you work, but you can use the Publish to the Web feature. To find the directions for this, refer to the video in the Resources section below. Once the timeline is Published to the Web, follow the directions at the bottom of the Knightlab homepage. Now you can preview as you work on the timeline simply by clicking the blue “Preview” button.


Once the title slide is done, all that’s left are the information slides to go along with it. These will be done similarly to the title slide. First, input the date to use. You can be as specific as the time, but it’s not required. If there is an end date, such as with a battle that lasted multiple days, you can add that as well. After the date is entered, then do the media, and add captions where necessary. If importing images from a cloud-based storage, such as Google Drive, make sure you have set the sharing options to public. Finally, you can add a color background by putting in the HTML color code for the color you wish to use. Also, here is a link to all of the different types of media that Timeline JS supports and how to embed them in the timeline.

Here is a snapshot of the data for my timeline within the Google Spreadsheet:


Here is a quick video sample of my timeline. Unfortunately, WordPress.com sites cannot have the timeline embedded into it. For a direct link to this timeline, go here.

For those importing images from Google Drive: One thing I noticed as I worked on my timeline was that I had to get a specific share link in order for my images to show up. Right click on the image to be shared, then change the share settings to “Anyone with the Link can View”. Once this is done, copy the link directly from that same screen by clicking the “Copy Link” button. If you only right click the image in the Drive and then “Get Shareable Link” the image won’t appear in the slideshow.

Once the timeline is set up to your liking, you can then refer to the website and make optional changes, such as font, starting slides, and more. There is a direct embed code, as well as a direct link. Here is the direct link to my timeline. I can always go back and make changes to my timeline in the future using the same Google Spreadsheet file. All changes to it are automatically updated in the link.

Enjoy creating your own awesome timelines!


Fluco Toolbox: Quickshare Screenshot

Welcome to Fluco Toolbox, a series of posts that showcases potential edtech tools for the Fluvanna County classroom. Each post will discuss the tool, the type of problems it can help solve, and how it can be used in the classroom. If you’re a Fluvanna County staff member and want to learn more about using the tool in your own classroom, please schedule to see your ITRT and we will develop professional development based around your needs. If you’ve stumbled upon this post and you’re not part of the district, no worries! Feel free to use the information provided to jumpstart your own research.

Have you ever wanted to take a screenshot in Chrome, but couldn’t remember the key combination (Chromebook) or wanted to open a program to accomplish the task?

Today’s Fluco Toolbox tool is: QuickShare Screenshot

First, the basics:

Name: QuickShare Screenshot
URL: Link Here
Cost: FREE
Problem this tool solves: While working in Chrome, take a full or partial screenshot of the active window. Tool works for any device operating with the Chrome browser.

If you’re a Chromebook user, the only way to innately take a screenshot and save it is to use a combo of keys on the keyboard. A shot of the whole screen is captured and saved in the Downloads section of the Chromebook. If you’re a Windows user, you have many options from native Windows programs to free downloadable options. However, if you use both devices frequently, or are simply loving that Chromebook, Alice Keeler’s Quickshare Screenshot might just be your answer.


Image showing the keyboard combo for taking screenshots on a Chromebook – Ctrl + Shift + Switch Windows

First, download the extension from the Web Store using the URL above. It will add itself to Chrome, and will appear as a Drive icon in a green box with a dotted line around it.

Click the icon whenever the need to take a screenshot arises. A box will appear with options to take a screenshot of the full screen or a partial screenshot. If partial screen is selected, the screen will dim, and the user will need to select the area of the screen to capture.


Once the screenshot has been taken, it will automatically be saved to a folder in the user’s Drive called Quickshare Screenshot, and also copied to the clipboard for easy pasting into any program or resource. The first time a user takes a screenshot, they’ll need to give the extension permissions on their account.

Simple, and quick, just as the name implies. Go on and give it a try!


Lack of Passion to Connect

One thing I’ve noticed over the course of this year is that change is low in numbers. I do a lot of social media connecting, both for the school and for my own personal growth, and I’ve noticed it in both areas, so that’s where this post is going to focus.

I will admit that my posting slacked a lot until this month. I was far too busy with dealing with wedding planning and all that went with that. When I was home, my destressing time was spent with my wife and painting rocks, as well as planning a wedding and honeymoon. I had too much on the brain, and not enough to go around for everything I wanted to do. Pretty sure that’s okay, and now I’m back on track. Any big life event is going to cause a lapse in working toward change, specifically connecting and sharing one’s stories. Those are not the people I’m worried about.

I’m concerned with those who don’t feel the need to change, or to seek change. I’m concerned with those who feel they have nothing to share, don’t want to share, or brush it off. When it comes to our classrooms and schools, we should be proud to showcase what goes on inside with our students and the learning that takes place. We should want to show parents more than just a child’s grades and progress. As with anything else, one or two glimpses a year won’t tell the entire year’s story.

In my district, I run social media for the two schools I work at. I also can post to the other schools, and act as one of the social media leads for all of the schools. I have noticed that if I am unable to be at work on a given day that the posting isn’t done. I make sure events are placed on the school pages, that announcements are posted, and I try to create things where families can contribute. I love working with social media and spreading the good news about the schools in our district, but I am only one of many.

Over time, I have learned that it takes a passion for social media and leading change with social media to produce results. I can speak about being a connected educator and school branding all I want, but it takes audience members to make that change inside of themselves. Listeners have to want to make the change and follow through with the change.

Social media connectedness is a slow process. Becoming connected with others takes time and patience. One cannot start a Twitter account and expect to quickly gain followers and connections. Like a garden, one must cultivate and invest their own time in the process. I have been actively using my account for professional growth since about 2014, and it’s something I cannot stop doing. I still find some of my best resources and connections through Twitter, or because of Twitter.

For example, I went to Copenhaver Institute this past summer. Because I actively tweeted during the Institute, I not only made a new friend in Heidi Trude (@htrude07), but I also was able to connect and talk to Stephanie Doyle (@stephaniedoyle), who helps run the Virginia Teacher of the Year network. That has led to me being invited to present at the Teaching, Learning, Collaborating Symposium in Radford next month. Ironically enough, I elected to present on being a connected educator.

For as many as I see unwilling to jump on board and connect, there are others who work hard, despite obstacles. A colleague from my former district, Nicole Morris (@cnicolemorris), moved from the classroom to principalship at the beginning of this school year. She was already active in growth and learning on Twitter, and we also are connected on Facebook. What I have noticed about her switch is that as an administrator, she loves to share her schools’ stories (she is in charge of two small schools). While it’s a work in progress while she adapts to her new role, she still realizes that it’s important and shares the stories when she can. She even had each of her schools create a hashtag to use for their stories. I love seeing these little glimpses into her schools.

As I think about becoming connected, I realize that I still am looking for ways to get others to connect, but that it won’t come about without a mindset change. I cannot force anyone to become connected unless they decide that they want to do so. However, I do need to analyze my topics and how I present on becoming connected to see if I can find new ways to persuade others.

I Got Married!

You may have noticed that in past weeks, this blog has been very quiet, save for Fluco Toolbox posts. And of course, there was no Fluco Toolbox post this week. I’ve been so busy, but that’s because I got married this past weekend! I married the love of my life, Bethany, and we are now beginning our journey together as wife and wife.

We were married on October 15, 2017 at Canaan Valley Resort in West Virginia. We had great weather for our ceremony, and a few hiccups along the way. However, in the end, we were married, and that’s what counts, right? I could not have asked for a better ceremony once it got started, and our officiant was fantastic!

You’ll now notice that I’ve also changed my last name. I decided long ago to take on my wife’s last name, and it’s been an adjustment getting used to hearing it from staff and students. All of my social media currently reflects the change, and I’ll start working on the tags on this blog as well.

Now that the wedding is over, I can work on the fun planning for our honeymoon. We are headed to Disney World during the week of Thanksgiving, and we have everything pretty much laid out for that, plan-wise. That’s the easy planning stuff, and way less stressful to deal with when I don’t have to consider a million other factors and other people while I work. Pretty sure I can cross off any notions I had of ever wanting to be a wedding planner! (Not that I wanted to be anyway).

I’m sharing a few pictures from our wedding below. These were taken by our guests, and we’re hoping to get a sneak peek at some of our photos from our photographer this weekend.

Focusing with Music

As I began this year, I was introduced to an article that suggested different Pandora music stations for teachers to use in the classroom. Some of them I had heard of before in my rounds on Twitter, but I’d never actually tried any of them. I read through the article, and then sent it on to teachers at both of my schools. I got some responses back and thank yous. I then began my year.

I quickly found out that once again I was having trouble focusing on staying on task. I dealt with this last year, so it wasn’t new to me. Last year involved having small snacks on hand to deal with the tiredness that might have crept over me. I didn’t want to do that again this year. I remembered the article and pulled up my first choice for a station – Lindsey Stirling Radio. I love Lindsey, and the station was great, but I found I’d be pulled out of the moment when it played one of her more current songs that had lyrics to it. I became more distracted as the song was sang.

Eventually, I switched to the Beats for Studying station, and that is the one I have stuck with ever since. In the weeks I have been listening, only one song has come across that had very soft lyrics, and they were in another language. I have fallen in love with the different string quartets that cover popular songs, such as the Vitamin String Quartet and the Dallas String Quartet. I have used the station at work and at home, and even at the gym for background as I walked and read my Kindle. I have gone so far as to find the songs on Amazon Prime music and download them to my phone so I can have them offline. (Amazon Prime music is free, but you can’t download on a PC).

Since I don’t have a real office at the middle school on the days that I’m there, I am instead in one of the computer labs. Sometimes, a teacher will need extra space to test a few students. On one such day, this teacher came in and asked if she might test a couple of kids. I asked if she needed my music off, and she said no, it wasn’t necessary.

I hardly paid attention after that. I worked, and as I did two students entered to test. The one boy had the teacher with him, and she sat with him as he worked. Both students finished and left, as did the teacher. I was then surprised when the teacher returned to talk to me. I learned that the boy was a student who could not sit still to test, and was easily distracted by the smallest of things. Even when he was pulled into a separate room, he had trouble staying focused and on task.

However, this time, he actually was able to test without so much fidgeting or distraction. He didn’t have to be reminded often to continue to work, or to not be distracted by whatever object he could find to focus on. He simply worked on his test and finished as he was supposed to do. She was amazed and surprised. I explained to her about the music station and why I listened to it. I thought that would be the end of things, and I got back to work on my projects.

Nope, not the end of things. His regular classroom teacher was the next one to visit me, and she demanded to know what the radio station happened to be. She wanted this student to be able to work and focus, and if she had to load up the station on the student’s computer and plug in headphones, she would. I laughed and explained it to her, later forwarding on the article about the different music stations so she would be able to look into it herself.

Music isn’t going to be the answer for everyone, but for some, it’s a great answer, and certainly worth looking into. If you’re interested in the article I am referring to, you can find it here. It has many different stations recommended by teachers.

Embarking Toward Kindness

This year, I have decided to try some different in how I interact with people. A fellow colleague, Tamara Letter, has inspired me with her work with kindness and her own students. I wanted to do my own work with kindness, and though I feel as though I am bumbling along, I feel like I am starting to make a difference, even if it is a small one. I’m finding my way along, so a lot of what I do is trial and error as I come up with different ideas.

My first act was designing the FlucoGram program. I have everything set to roll with this pretty much, and the school will purchase the supplies I need. Once a month during lunch shifts, students and teachers will be able to visit my table. They will be able to fill out 1 card for another teacher or student. I’ll take the cards collected and sort through them to be delivered. Teachers will also be made aware that if there is a student they know of who could use some kind thoughts to let me know and we can send a FlucoGram to them at any point in the year.

While I was designing the FlucoGram program, I also planned to really get new staff at both of my schools off on the right foot. I had already been asked by my high school principal to keep in close contact with his new teachers via email, so I decided to do the same with the new middle school teachers. However, I knew that I wanted to do more, and so ended up writing a welcome card to each new staff member. I had bought some scratch ‘n sniff stickers and put those inside as well. I placed them in each teacher’s mailbox.

What was funny was that I did hear back from those teachers. Not every teacher, of course, but some of them. They were grateful for the kind words. One teacher even told me that she was worried and doubting herself as the year started, and then she received my card and the words just spoke to her. What had seemed like just words to me made a powerful impact on her. That made me smile. Doing this is not about receiving thank yous or accolades, but it is about making others feel good, making them smile. That’s all I care about, whether they tell me about it or not.

Because of this bright start, I’m going to pick some staff members from each school every week and write them a small card. I have plenty of extras, and I want to make them smile as well. I have a list of staff from each school, so I can easily track this and try not to miss anyone. It will be a lofty goal, as I have almost 100 teachers alone at the high school. No one said it was going to be easy though.

I do have another plan for my Kindness Project, but I’m not going to share it just yet until I get it rolling at both schools. It will be in the media center, and both library media specialists have approved the idea. I just need to get things rolling with it first because I want to have some images to share as well.

I hope to have more ideas and inspiration throughout the year. I just want to try new things and make my schools a little bit brighter for the teachers and staff. It’s hard work, but it’s fun and it’s rewarding, and that’s what matters most.