Each year since 2000, The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation organizes a week-long celebration encouraging people around the world to engage in acts of kindness. This year RAKweek is 2/14 – 2/20.
When I went to their website to find out more about it, I discovered that they have oodles of resources for teachers – of all grade levels – to teach kindness in school.
Yes, kindness is a skill just like reading and math that needs to be nurtured. In the research that I read, the best time to guide the process of kind behavior is in times of stress. It is an opportunity to describe emotions and understand situations in a broader context.
Kindness in schools has been studied in depth leading to conclusions that kindness:
- Improves trust
- Deepens teacher’s connection to students
- Results in fewer trips to the principal
- Fosters a positive classroom culture
- Leads to greater respect for others
Kindness in the classroom is outlined by 12 concepts of kindness. The below concepts are taken from the Random Acts of Kindness website; the examples and anecdotes are all mine.
- Assertive – When we think of kindness, we often get an image of sweet, shy, passive goodness. That’s not always the case. Kindness sometimes needs to be bold – dare I say ballsy. Kindness is a way of protecting others and that can mean confronting a bully and going against the crowd to do what is right.
- Caring – Caring about someone and showing you care are two different things. Your instinct might be to shy away because you feel intrusive or you might be uncomfortable. If that’s the case write a note, give a small gift or simply ask if there is anything the person needs.
- Compassion –A great way to show that you care for someone’s distress is by volunteering to help the needy. This isn’t just those in poverty, but those who are lonely, sad or injured. Students can visit the elderly and play games with them, make cards for the troops or collect supplies for the soup kitchen.
- Fairness – Being fair is not just about playing by the rules, but listening to others with an open mind. Sometimes people are acting out for unknown reasons. When this happened to Danielle, a kindergarten teacher, she learned that her student was wearing wet shoes that were accidentally left outside the night before. Talking it out is always the best solution.
- Gratitude – Appreciation is such a lacking element in the teaching world that there’s a week dedicated to it. An elementary reading specialist was working on her own time to find a solution to a students needs that were not being met with the current curriculum. The more she tried, the more the student pulled away. At the end of the year that student scored above average on the state assessment. Results were issued over the summer. On the first day of the next school year he found the reading specialist, gave her a big hug and thanked her for helping him earn his achievement. With students it can take a long time to see results, to become mature enough to recognize and to understand who is truly on your side.
- Integrity – There was a man who committed to doing a random act of kindness every day for a year. Each day he shared his act on social media. This was met with mixed reviews. Was he only doing it for the recognition? Integrity is doing what’s right, not for recognition, but for the mere fact that it’s the right thing to do.
- Helpfulness – First grade teacher Lori assigned jobs to all of her students and those jobs were based on helping others. For example a student would be asked to hold the glasses of another student while that student put on her art smock. Such a little task but students felt important when they were helpful and the other felt loved when they were helped. Win, win!
- Perseverance - Not all acts of kindness are created equal. Some take a lot of work. Many students in older grades do charity fundraisers that require them to clean up parks or walk/run a certain number of miles. These fundraisers require tremendous effort and follow-through.
- Respect – Respecting others might be the most challenging kindness concept because it requires people to value people even if those people’s values or culture don’t align with their own. Respect requires us to see the good in others through understanding.
- Responsibility – Have you ever heard of the term “Eat the Frog?” It metaphorically means that if you eat a frog first, you’ll experience nothing worse in your day. Being responsible is similar. You may not want to do something, but you need to because someone is counting on you. Not letting people down is an important way to spread kindness.
- Self-Care – Author Ayn Rand was heavily criticized for her “Virtues of Selfishness," but what critics failed to realize was that if we don’t take care of ourselves, we cannot take care of others. You can’t give what you don’t have. This is especially underrated from an emotional standpoint. If you don’t help yourself to gain confidence, love and self worth, you cannot give those things to others.
- Self-discipline – Being able to control our emotions so we don’t say hurtful things, lash out or even get physical with others is just as much about kindness as the positive acts discussed above. A teacher had students crumple up a piece of paper. Then she had them flatten it out and try their best to iron out the wrinkles and creases. No one could return that piece of paper to its original state. This is how she taught her students how being hurtful can never be erased.
Books To Read During Random Acts of Kindness Week
- Stone Soup by Marcia Brown
- Paulie Pastrami Achieves World Piece
- The Lion and the Mouse
- The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig
- All Families are Special by Norma Simon
- Bluish by Virginia Hamilton
- Wonder by RJ Palacio
- Hot Issues Cool Choices by Sandra McLeod Humphrey
- The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes
- Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
- To Kill a Mockingbird
- How to Talk to an Autistic Kid by Daniel Stefanski
The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation has free, downloadable curriculum for teaching kindness concepts.