How Full Is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath


Dear Readers,

It’s time for a book review. I haven’t written one in a long, long time. Well, I have one that’s worth the wait. It’s actually more than a year overdue. I’d promised a review of this book in September ’11. I wasn’t sure if I’d made good on that promise so I had to peruse my blog to make sure I hadn’t already posted a review of it. I am ashamed to say that I did not.

I wrote briefly about the concept of bucket filling last year, but didn’t continue it. I guess I just got so busy with life that I completely forgot. For that I do apologize. Now that that’s out the way, on to the review!

How Full Is Your Bucket, by Tom Rath (2007) and illustrated by Mary Reckmeyer, is a must-have book. The theme at the beginning of the book is along the lines of Alexander and Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. You can totally feel the child’s pain. But, by the middle of the book, readers are given useful tools to help turn that terrible, no good, very bad day around.

I read this book to my 4th & 5th graders. So I would recommend this book for 1st-5th. I think many young readers will thoroughly enjoy this book because everyone has had a terrible, no good, very bad day.

The book begins with Felix, who is having a terrible day. His little sister, Anna, comes along and Felix takes his anger out on her. Felix’s grandfather takes him to the side and explains about bucket dipping and bucket filling. At first Felix thinks his grandfather is joking, but later sees that he is not. Felix’s grandpa lets him leave with the warning that everyone has a bucket, whether it’s empty or full. If it’s empty, you feel terrible and want others to feel the same way (bucket dipping). If it’s full, you feel great and also want others to feel the same way (bucket filling). Incidentally, you also fill your own bucket as you fill others.

Felix goes to school and sees that his grandpa is telling the truth. His bucket, due to a series of mishaps, is now almost empty. However, something wonderful happens- his teacher gives him a compliment, his classmates do also. Slowly, his bucket is being refilled. This is when the book really gets good. Felix can now see what his grandpa was talking about. He can see those who have full buckets, just as he can see those who have empty buckets. From there, Felix discovers what bucket filling is truly about. Wanna’ know how it ends? Well, I’m not gonna’ tell you! If you would like to know the lessons Felix learned and would also like to teach others the lessons, buy it at your local bookstore or check it out at your local library.

MY STORY by Leila

This book was so very, very helpful. I consider myself excellent at classroom management, but who couldn’t use a little extra help, right? I know I needed it last year. The concepts in this book definitely helped me add to my classroom management repertoire.

This is how it helped me:

At the beginning of the school year I introduced the concept of bucket filling to the students as I read the book to them. We discussed it at length until I felt the concept was fully internalized. Once we read the book and discussed it, I began by filling everyone’s bucket. I told them what I thought was special about them and what I liked about them. I finished by telling them I was happy they were in my class.

After modeling the process, I asked for volunteers. Let me tell you that I had no shortage of volunteers. They eagerly and happily filled each other’s buckets. I also challenged the students not to fill the same person’s bucket.

I used bucket filling to break the fighting and backstabbing amongst the girls. I explained how, when they were fighting, they were dipping from someone’s bucket, not filling. If they were fighting, they could only fill the person’s bucket with whom they were fighting. It usually took them about a week of filling someone’s bucket to stop the fighting (If only temporarily).

One of my students from last year, Binaca Blast, took awhile to stop the fighting and backstabbing. At times she just didn’t seem to get it. Because of this she was usually filling multiple buckets at a time. By the end of the year, though, she got the message and learned to be nicer to her classmates. It definitely took awhile, but it did work.

I feel that bucket filling helped save my sanity in regard to Binaca Blast. So, if you have this problem, try bucket filling and see if it doesn’t work for you. You’ll be happy you did. Bye for now!

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2 thoughts on “How Full Is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath

  1. That sounds like a great book! It kind of reminds me of the story of the teacher who had each of the students write down something they liked about each of the other students, and then each student got a sheet full of compliments and encouragement from their classmates, and how some of them kept it forever!

  2. I hadn’t made that connection to that story until you just mentioned it. Maybe I’ll try this next year when I first introduce bucket filling. Thanks for the idea.

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