Growing a Culture of Kindness
Growing a culture of kindness at a school takes time and commitment. A staff needs to collaborate and commit to creating a culture of kindness. In my experience as a principal, kindness is a trait to promote at assemblies, on the announcements, and in classes. Here are a few school-wide activities that I have done over the past few years to promote kindness at school, that you can use to grow your kindness culture.
In the 2019-2020 school year, staff and students were feeling a bit disengaged with the new Covid-19 Health and Safety regulations. Our school participated in many whole-school activities, family groupings, monthly assemblies, multi-grade events, buddy classes, and school jobs. These create a sense of strong community, and had to be put aside because we were unable to meet as groups.
When browsing the internet for bulletin board ideas, I came across the Kindness Tree. This idea is not my original idea, but as with all great ideas, they are worth copying and sharing!
Just prior to World Kindness Day, I created a Kindness tree in the front entrance of the school. On World Kindness Day, November 13th, students and staff were encouraged to color and write kind quotes, phrases, or words on a handprint and place them on the tree.
It is very heartwarming to see students stop and take a look at the handprints, point out their own, and acknowledge another handprint that they like.
This was a way for us to collaborate as a school on creating positive messages and continue to promote a culture of kindness.
Share your commitment to kindness with a Kindness Band! Give each student a kindness band that they can wear daily to help show their commitment to kindness.
They can be customized with your own phrase and color.
Or, you can go on Amazon, and find happy face wrist bands (click on the photo for direct link), or other positive phrases.
School Spirit Days
Bring your school community together with school spirit days.
We planned one school spirit day per month, sometimes more! For our Great Kindness Challenge we had a theme day every day of the week.
Some themes we did are: Pink Shirt, moustache, jersey, hat, Christmas sweater, wacky hair, tropical, royalty/fancy, rainbow, twin, Canada, polka dot, western, a theme color (blue, green, red), and school spirit wear.
Gratitude is one way to show kindness to others. We created a gratitude tree at school with names of people, places, or things we were grateful for, written on the leaves.
One valuable way to show kindness is by giving your child or students a compliment. In the past I have created "We Caught You Being Kind" tickets, but this year I found compliment tickets on a webpage promoting the book, "Wonder" and I decided to change the focus of our recognition program to compliments. Staff or students can give out these tickets. The criteria is: compliments must be about a specific positive behaviour or strength you see in another person, not about outward appearances.
One valuable way to show and promote kindness is by giving your child or students a compliment. In the past I have created "We Caught You Being Kind" tickets, but one year I decided to change the focus of our recognition program to compliments. The ticket template can be found here.
Staff or students can write on these tickets, with the criteria being compliments must be about a specific positive behaviour or strength you see in another person, not about outward appearances.
Tickets are filled out and brought to the office where they are read on the noon-hour announcements before they are posted on the Compliment Corner bulletin board. At the end of the month the tickets are taken down and given to the students to take home.
Once a week, any student in grades 2-7, who would like to be a part of the Kindness Club, met with me at recess or lunch to develop plans and complete activities to promote kindness in our school. Students have created bookmarks for the library, letters for our neighbors, cards for staff, and posters for the hallways.
Pink Shirt Day &
World Kindness Events
There are many world-wide kindness events happening throughout the year that your school can link into. World Kindness Day is an international holiday that was formed in 1998, to promote kindness throughout the world and is observed annually on November 13 as part of the World Kindness Movement.
Pink Shirt Day began as a high-school "sea of pink" protest in 2007 by some students who wore pink in support of a Grade 9 boy who was being bullied for wearing a pink shirt. It is held on the last Wednesday in February.
Go here for the history and story behind Pink Shirt Day.
Random Acts of Kindness Week was started by the Random Acts of Kindness organization, and is held during the second week in February.
Go to their website here for a free research-based kindness curriculum, excellent resources, and lesson plans.
Every year, on the second Wednesday of April, is International Day of Pink. This is another opportunity to wear pink and stand in solidarity with the 2SLGBTQIA+ community to continue fighting for equality and acceptance and to create to create a more inclusive and diverse world. June is Pride Month, which is another great opportunity to recognize equal justice and equal opportunity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) citizens.
Student school jobs, or school service, provide students the opportunity to show responsibility and take pride and ownership over their school. This an integral part of the culture of schools I lead at. Every term, students in grades 2-7 could apply for a variety of school service jobs, and I made sure that there was an opportunity for every student who applies. One year I had over 100 students who applied for a school job, so I had to create 30 more school services than I had listed!
It is very rewarding to see students take responsibility and give back to their school community. Students are very excited about serving the school, and take the role very seriously. Some of the school service jobs are: assembly crew, compost managers, announcement readers, flag monitors, card artists, kindergarten helpers, birthday managers, recycling team, fruit & veggie crew, lost & found managers and snow shovelers.
Be the 'I' in Kind Banner
Create your own banner out of paper, or go to a local sign shop to have one made on vinyl as a daily reminder to be the 'I' in kind.
The students always get a kick out of the idea of doing a "heart attack". When I was a principal I would go into a classroom at a prearranged time, send the teacher on their way, and do this fun activity with the students for their teacher.
Students create kind messages on heart-shaped colored paper for the person receiving the "heart attack". They then tape the hearts all over the door, desk, or other designated spot. I even had one group of students stick them onto their teacher when he walked in.
Try this with your students and for the principal, secretary, custodian, support staff, breakfast coordinator, lunch supervisors, or another adult in the building.
Morning greetings are a great way to deepen relationships, develop interpersonal skills, and build a sense of community. Students feel welcomed, seen, acknowledged, and valued by their teacher and other adults in the building.
Meaningful morning greetings are also a way to give children a fresh start. If they went home the day before feeling defeated or frustrated, when they are greeted kindly the next day they arrive at school, it gives them a new perspective.
A "Hello!" followed by a child's name is an easy greeting to start with. It shows you know them by name and you know who they are. A traditional handshake is another great morning greeting because it’s something students are familiar with in society, and it is a greeting they’ll use throughout their lives. Other ideas include a high 5, thumbs up, fist bump, wave, hug, or a dance move!
You can find my "Morning Greeting" choice boards under Free Resources. Hang it up outside your classroom, on the door, on the wall by your morning meeting area, or create your own with your students. As children arrive, they can review the morning greeting ideas and choose the one they want to do that morning.