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Mark My Words – The Kindness Project

Be Kind!

Please rewind!

I am sure those of us of a certain age remember this sticker that was plastered on VHS tapes rented from video stores back in the day.

The theory behind that mantra was that if you rented a VHS movie, make sure you hit that rewind button before returning the video, so the person after you doesn’t have to.
A small, simple gesture for the next in line who chooses to watch that movie.

Kindness.

Be kind.

Show kindness.

Random acts of kindness.

As you know, I am a teacher. At my school, Sam Adams Elementary in Cassopolis, and schools across the nation, KINDNESS has become a hot button topic.

Over the past few months, Sam Adams started the “Kindness Project”. The idea came about when the assistant principal of our school, Deb Stermer, wanted to do something to honor her late mother’s birthday, which was on February 1st.

“I couldn’t give my mom anything physically, so I was thinking of what I could do in honor of her,” Stermer said.

Stermer decided the best way to pay tribute to her mom was to be kind to everyone that crossed her path.

As Stermer did her morning walk through of the building, sounds coming from Room 204 (my room, coincidently), caught her attention.

“I happened to walk by your room and everybody was laughing and it felt inviting, so I wanted to come in,” Stermer said.

After stepping in my room, Stermer challenged my students to be kind to one person that day. The hope was that by having students spread kindness to one another, that it would spread building wide. Stermer took that message to other classrooms that day. One classroom reported back to her the next day that they committed 67 acts of kindness in ONE DAY.

From there, the “Kindness Project” took off.”
A bulletin board in one of the main hallways was dedicated to our Kindness Project. Students are encouraged to post their acts of kindness on the board using post-it notes. The board has been an overwhelming success. In fact, we now have two boards in our school. Last month we had well over 1,200 notes on the boards.

While the whole Kindness Project didn’t start as a result of students being unkind to one another, it was discovered during the early going that there was a disconnect as to what being kind actually stood for.

Denise Gendron, speech and language teacher and Three Rivers resident said that kids weren’t aware of what kindness meant.

“We found out that while they (the students) were being kind, they couldn’t really define what kindness is,” Gendron said.

In addition to encouraging students to be kind, the staff has been sharing examples of what kindness looks and sounds like, including daily announcements and a daily kindness calendar. The results have been positive.

A wonderful byproduct of this project is that students have become more engaged with each other as well as adults.

Stermer said that they have tried for years to have students become more engaged with them verbally in a positive way. Since the Kindness Project started, students are approaching teachers, administration and other adults in the building and asking how their day is going, complimenting them on their appearance and asking them how they are feeling.

The students have gone from not being able to define what kindness is to spotting it everywhere they go. They are coming to school with stories of how they were kind at home, the grocery store and other places Students are asking parents to buy them post-it notes because they are going to need them to track all of their acts of kindness.

We have found that students are now looking for kind things to do or say to someone else just to brighten their day and to be able to post a note about it for others to see.

This is the kind of bragging that I can tolerate!

On the flip side, when a student is spotted doing or saying something inappropriate, a quick “was that kind” has the same effect as “the look” from a parent.

Classrooms are doing daily activities such as morning meetings, feelings check-ins, mindful activities, classroom mottos/pledges and end of day check-ins, all centered around kindness, doing what is right and taking ownership of it all.

The culture of our building is changing….in a positive manner. Students are more aware of not only themselves, but others, as well. Students are gaining courage, when they might not have had it before to reach out to others and express a hand in kindness.

Another facet of our Kindness Project is our school-wide Kindness Celebration. Teachers select a student each month who has been exhibiting kindness at school. The students are recognized in front of their peers and staff. The Behavior Team, of which I am a part of, form a tunnel for the students to run through when their name is called. Since we “spread kindness like confetti”, confetti is tossed on them as they run through. Students are also given a kindness bracelet, a certificate and their names are placed on the wall for all to see.

At the end of the ceremony, all the students in our K-6 building are invited down to grab a cup of confetti and join in on the celebration of spreading kindness. As you know, kindness doesn’t discriminate, so all students are invited to take part, and they love it!
It is a beautiful thing to witness, considering all the negativity we see in our world today. I am proud of my school, our students and staff. It is a wonderful feeling to be a part of such a caring, KIND school!
And just think if we had remembered to rewind those VHS tapes…

Submitted by Mark McGlothlen

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