When I was a teenager, I remember going into town with my mom right around Valentine’s Day. There were some construction workers near the main intersection. As we ran our errands, my mom decided to buy a bag candy. As we came back through that intersection, she handed me the bag of candy and made me get out of the car to go give candy to the workers and wish them a good day.
It was kind of awkward for me, but I remember how excited they were for a small treat and to know that they were seen. This memory of random kindness has resonated throughout my life and stuck with me and has completely affected the way that I approach strangers with kindness in my daily life.
It doesn’t take much for small moments of kindness to profoundly influence a young person’s life. In fact, one study of adolescent-age students suggests that while doing good benefits the receiver, it also improves the well-being of the giver. Students who perform acts of kindness also tend to be more popular. Students who are well-liked exhibit more inclusive behavior while decreasing externalized behaviors such as bullying (Kindness Counts).This creates a domino effect – classrooms with a more even distribution of popularity, with no favorites and no marginalized students, have a higher average mental health.
And it doesn’t stop there. A follow-up study shows that students exposed to social-emotional learning and kindness average 13 percentile points higher in academics and have lowered negative outcomes such as conduct issues and emotional distress (Why We Really Need SEL Now). Social-emotional learning is important; all the data points that way. So, how can we more positively affect learners?
There are so many great articles and resources to tap into. The following are a few of our favorites:
- This PBS.org article gives solid tips to get started making kindness a priority.
- RandomActsofKindness.org’s FREE K-8 lesson plans are amazing, plus they’re CASEL approved.
- Edutopia’s article has some practical ideas and inspiration including a feature about a school that replaces homework with acts of kindness for a month.
- Getting Smart’s list of apps that promote kindness is a great way to cultivate kindness on platforms kids are familiar with plus help build digital citizenship.
Ideas to Spark Kindness
One tweet that has started to recirculate almost two years after its original posting comes from Tom Savagar, who gives his students a “secret mission” to complete random acts of kindness. In his case, he’s got a reward system set up, and each time he hears about his students completing their secret mission from another staff member, they get to move up in the rewards. The idea here is twofold. Students are showing kindness toward others, and the positive reinforcement created helps solidify how powerful that kindness can be.
Try these out in your own classroom:
- Kindness Bingo – Give your students a reason to be nice to each other. Bingo cards with certain kindness tasks can be done throughout their day/week. As they complete tasks, they can cross them off on their board. After they have crossed out all tasks on their card, prizes or tasty treats can be given. We’ve also seen this translated to Kindness Cards where task ideas are pulled from a jar or clip and students randomly pick their assignment for that day/week.
- Pom-Pom Jar – Let your whole class work together in creating a kinder classroom. All you need is a jar and some craft pom-poms. When your students do something nice for their peers, they get to put a pom-pom in a jar. The goal is to fill the jar full or pom-poms – celebrating with a class party (or an even bigger service project)!
Lisa Lewis, Lafayette Upper Elementary, Fredericksburg, VA
It’s More than Robots: Kindness in Action
OK, this one tugs right at my heart strings. The Lady Robo-Rangers FTC13523 found out about a three-month old chihuahua who was born without any front legs. As the pup grew, he needed a way to get around that was more than just fumbling. This FIRST® Tech Challenge group, using TETRIX® robotics gear, actually built him his own chariot so that he could scoot along, pushing the cart with his back legs. They also came up with a crafty solution to help strap him in. Check out the little guy walking for the first time!
Future Ready Also Means Ready to Serve
Building skills that will serve students now and into their futures is the mission. And it doesn’t stop after high school graduation. For many, college provides additional (and sometimes larger-scale) ways to serve. In 1982, Texas A&M pioneered the largest single-day service project led by college students, now called The Big Event. Since then, this community appreciation initiative has spread to college campuses across the country, including our local Pittsburg State University. The day is SO much fun and serves such a purpose. It’s a day dedicated to assisting people with assorted projects from moving furniture and equipment to cleaning, painting, organizing, and landscaping. It’s also a chance to connect with people outside of your typical spheres. It’s empathy in action!
Practicing problem-solving, collaboration, computational thinking, communication, responsibility, or creativity – you name a skill and you’ll likely see it throughout the planning and execution of these service days.
Be the I in Kind
As of late, we’ve seen some pretty cool bulletin boards circulating the social-sphere promoting “the I in KIND.” You’ve probably seen them too. We love that strong physical, visual representation of actually standing in the spot where the letter I goes in KIND.❤️ There are countless ways to incorporate social-emotional learning and random acts of kindness into a classroom or daily life. If you have ways that you already integrate SEL, drop us a comment or send us a picture of what you’re doing!
The last thing I’ll leave you with is a quote from the Netflix movie Klaus: “A true, selfless act always sparks another.”
“Simple Ways to Encourage Kindness in Students of All Ages”
“Kindness Counts: Prompting Prosocial Behavior in Preadolescents Boosts Peer Acceptance and Well-Being”
“Why We Really Need SEL (Social-Emotional Learning) Now”