Mom shares teacher's 'brilliant' secret for fighting bullying, easing loneliness

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By Lisa Flam

Glennon Doyle Melton calls it a “brilliant Love Ninja strategy,” and she proudly told the world about it.

Melton, a writer and mother of three, learned about the secret method her son’s fifth teacher uses to help prevent bullying one day when she went to the teacher for math help. (Not for her son, she clarified on her blog — for herself, because she couldn't understand his math homework.) She discovered that Kathy Pitt was teaching her students something she felt was even more important than academics: kindness.

On TODAY Wednesday, Pitt explained her method for gathering clues about which kids might be at risk, lonely or bullied. The veteran teacher passes out index cards and asks students to write the names of kids they want to get to know, and to nominate an exceptional classmate, all by secret ballot.

“When I came up with the idea of simply distributing the cards, it really was to find out which children were belonging and which children were not,” said Pitt, who teaches at Sea Gate Elementary School in Naples, Fla.

In the 15 years she has been using the cards, she has found that the names that don’t show up often are the ones she needs to monitor most.

“I thought it was stunning,” Melton said.

So did millions of others. Melton wrote about Pitt on her blog Momastery in January, and it has been shared more than 4 million times.

Melton told TODAY that Pitt has been passing out the cards since the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, where two students killed 13 people at their school.

“Because that was the day she realized that kids have to be seen,” Melton said. “All of them. They can fall through the cracks. And if they’re not seen, they’ll find a way to be seen.”

In her blog post, Melton writes about Pitt’s simple strategy: “As a teacher, parent, and lover of all children — I think that this is the most brilliant Love Ninja strategy I have ever encountered. It’s like taking an X-ray of a classroom to see beneath the surface of things and into the hearts of students.”

“This story isn’t just about teachers and kids,” Melton said on TODAY. “This story is about the beauty that happens when we go through our day and we notice people who might not get noticed.”

Pitt says she hopes her students are getting her message about inclusion and kindness, summing it up this way: “I care about you. I want you to care about each other.”