Monday, September 29, 2014

Practice Kindness

Kindness is one of the first character traits we teach children.

Visit any preschool classroom or playground and you may hear adults say things like:

"Be nice."

"You need to share."

"Say thank you."

Children are reminded early on that it's important to be nice to others and treat others with kindness. The adults in their lives model this for them again and again. 

However, as children get older, they begin to see people around them make different choices. Children are always watching, always listening, and always learning. 

They begin to learn that:

People don't always do nice things for each other. 

People don't always share. 

People don't always say thank you.

People don't always choose their words carefully. 

Kindness often seems to get left behind somewhere in early childhood and the "kindness muscle" that we worked so hard as parents to cultivate, begins to weaken.

How can we expect children to be kind when people around them are making different choices?

The answer is simple: PRACTICE KINDNESS!

Kindness is a muscle that can be strengthened with practice. I believe we must intentionally practice kindness in our own lives and show children what it means to be kind to others. When young people see that we value kindness, they will make choices that are kind and follow our example!

Kindness is not so much taught, but inspired! I believe this is especially true in schools.

Dr. Todd Whitaker, author of "What Great Teachers Do Differently," believes that children see everyone in the school community as a teacher, regardless of their role:

"... I call everyone in a school a teacher. It doesn't matter to me if they are a cook or a custodian, secretary, bus driver, teacher assistant, librarian, counselor, assistant principal, school nurse, or teacher. I have learned that if young people see us one way or the other, we are a teacher.  And I also believe, that if we don't model what we teach, we're still teaching. Only we're just teaching something else."

With this in mind, I feel that it is even more important for the school community (parents, staff, teachers, administrators) to practice kindness on a daily basis. Each interaction we have with another person is an opportunity respond with kindness!

This year, I am working with a number of people to help inspire kindness in NCS students and the school community. At the beginning of September, we started the Kind Kids Club at Star Academy. Each month, students in a different grade level will be challenged to complete 10 random acts of kindness (or more!) at home and in the community. During the month, I work with teachers to provide weekly kindness lessons to students, teach them a kindness pledge, and complete a few school-wide random acts of kindness. At the end of the month, we will have a celebration and continue the Kind Kids Club with the next grade level.

Here are some things the Kind Kids Club 1st Graders have been doing:

Students decorated an appreciation banner for school custodians!

Here are a few examples of what students from Mrs. Kahler's 1st grade class have been up to at home and in their communities:


1st Graders in Ms. Kloczko's class used technology to share some of their Random Acts of Kindness:

We also took a day to focus on Kindness in the Friendship Club Workshop at PACT Academy. 1st-3rd Grade students practiced random acts of kindness during their class session, which included approaching a parent, staff member, or student they didn't know, handing them a flower, and saying, "Have a nice day!" Students also decorated bookmarks with kindness messages and hid them in the library at PACT for others to find. Students had so much fun being kind!

Following our random acts of kindness at PACT, a parent was inspired to create flower pots filled with pens and whiteboard markers for our school! These colorful flower pots now sit in PACT classrooms and can be found all around the building.

Kindness even was a part of our high school and middle school Wellness Week at PFAA, Leading Edge, and VLA Academies. Positive messages were painted on yellow signs and posted all around central gathering areas of campus. In addition, at lunchtime, students were given "Connected Cards" with kind messages that they were told to pass along to a friend or someone who might need a little kindness that day.

We are planting seeds of kindness all around Natomas Charter School. The greatest thing about kindness is that acts of kindness are contagious! When kindness is practiced, others begin to pick up on these actions and slowly they become more than a random occurrence. Kindness then becomes part of the school culture, what we practice at home and what we bring to our communities.

Be Kind...and pass it on!