Acts of kindness in a school community are frequently discussed topics. Teachers regularly encourage students to compliment each other, to say ‘thank you,’ to recognize when a friend is upset and to invite a new friend to play or join a group.
But, periodically, young people and adults alike need to be reminded about the importance of these acts. Counseling In Schools enjoys sharing details about our programs; especially ones that involve themes of Respect and Kindness. One of our counselors from a partner school in the Bronx shared details about their Kindness Challenge, which took place on Valentine’s Day. This particular theme was just one of many spectacular examples that has sprouted from this school’s community.
The children at this Pre-K through grade 5 school are taught to compliment each other in front of their peers as the perfect opportunity to model acts of kindness. By simply highlighting strengths and making note of students’ strengths, everyone benefits as a whole, which sets the tone.
“I normally set the tone by letting my group members know that I really believe they can make positive changes,” said Jannet Rivera, MS, MHC, a CIS counselor for the school. “I greet them with a ‘good morning’ and a ‘good afternoon;’ I have them introduce themselves to the group, identify strengths in each member and verbalize those sentiments in front of each other.”
Ms. Rivera focuses on behavior modifying activities, meaning that she prepares themes that are relevant to a particular month, including good manners, kindness, anti-bullying, empathy, and Women’s History Month. The on-site CIS team collaborates and determines the specific theme for the month with an emphasis on keeping the students engaged and positive, reinforcing everyone’s strengths, including how to use a sense of humor when appropriate.
Group rules are emphasized and everyone is given an opportunity to be heard. “There are times where the sessions become a bit overwhelming, but that ultimately leads to teachable moments,” emphasizes Ms. Rivera. “We try to keep it simple, helping the students find new or different ways of thinking, feeling and behaving, while practicing gratitude in their daily lives.”
In the month of February, Ms. Rivera and the team explored the theme of Respect For All. The group elaborated that Kindness Matters, so the staff, students and families were encouraged to show many random acts of kindness. The students appreciated the challenge and recognized that they are each other’s role models, so they jumped at the opportunity to write an act of kindness on an index card and give it to their parents, fellow students and the school staff throughout February.
Students were helpful with setting up, before reading the assigned Kindness worksheet, where attributes were noted. They contributed their creativity and ideas before moving onto their Valentine’s Day cards for loved ones, family members, a peer or a staff member. The students felt even more empowered by taking individual and group pictures of their projects and gifts.
As a team, they were able to have a positive impact on their peers by uplifting and inspiring them to think and act in ways that they may not have considered previously or that had slipped away temporarily. Whether it is smiling at each other, lending a classmate a pencil, or writing someone a note, the takeaway of the Kindness Challenge for these students is impactful and has long-lasting ramifications.
Several of the students modeled the behavior, which demonstrated examples of success, respect for all and acts of kindness – all of which builds positive self-esteem, partnership and pride in their community.