Building Kindness by Barbara Gruener
How would you rate your school’s kindness culture? A question that I love to pose in my workshops and guidance lessons goes something like this: If you were arrested for kindness, would there be enough evidence to convict you? Eric Hoffer said, “We are made kind by being kind.” As such, we must teach our students to be kind, to think with their hearts, which happens through modeling, by showing kindness to our children and by helping students intentionally seek out opportunities to be kind. Websites that promote kindness abound; you’ve undoubtedly heard about Kind Acts, Random Acts of Kindness, Random Kind Acts, The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation or Help Others to name a few. You can get more kindness ideas than you’ll ever be able to use at these inspirational sites.
I’ve had students over the years who have asked for their birthday gifts to be specific things like dog food or diapers so that they can donate to their favorite cause. Something similar that we’ve started at school is that instead of giving a gift on Bosses Day, our staff contributes to charities that care for children and their families (like Save the Children or Heifer Project) in honor of our Administrators. Lately, I’ve enjoyed reading posts about people who go out and do these kind acts to celebrate their birthdays. Shannon at Sweet Blessings, for example, rented a snow cone machine and bought all of the fixins to treat children in a local neighborhood to a complimentary celebratory shaved ice. Click here to read all about and enjoy pictures of her kind act. And while she called it random, it was actually better than random; it was purposeful, intentional, and planned. And just think about the example that she set for those children who were on the receiving end of her generosity!
Remember the old Faberge Organic Shampoo advertisement that suggests you tell a friend and she’ll tell a friend and so on and so on . . . it’s called The Power of One. Try that for a month. Do one kind thing every day. Suppose the recipients of your kindness did the same. Do you know how many kind acts you’d have had a hand in at the end July? An astounding 1,073,741,824. Now that’s a lot of kindness. And guess what? A kindness can be as simple as a smile. Are you familiar with One Smile by Cindy McKinley? It’s a quick read that illustrates the power of one child’s choice on a myriad of stakeholders. Young Katie’s innocent smile ignites a far-reaching circle of warmth and selfless giving. With one simple act of kindness, she touches the hearts and lives of people she may never even meet.
After reading it together, consider questions like, “How many stakeholders are involved in Katie’s choice to smile at that stranger in the park that day?” and “What might have happened to the man had Katie chosen to look away or ignore him instead?” and “What might happen to the other stakeholders as a result of his actions if he doesn’t get that One Smile to pass along?” This book is rich in extension possibilities. Find out what your students want to do to pay it forward and create a chain of caring: Write blind affirmations and leave them taped to classroom doors? Stand at the front door and give high fives? Offer homework help in a subject that you’re good at? Sharpen pencils for your teacher? Ask them; they’ll know what secret service they’d be willing to carry out.
How will you take kindness to the next level in your character building this year?
About the Author
A bilingual educator who was raised on her family’s farm in Wisconsin, Barbara Gruener has been the counselor and character coach at Westwood-Bales Elementary School in Friendswood, Texas for the past ten years. She’s also a motivational speaker and loves to influence and impact workshop participants in her signature Sing, Dance, Laugh and Build Character sessions. When she’s not at school, Barbara likes to write, read, knit, bake, and spend time with family and friends. Check out Barbara’s uplifting blog, Corner on Character, to read her inspirational stories about positive people and elevating experiences.
Barbara’s inspiring articles appear monthly on The Teachers’ Lounge.