I am crazy about kindness. Sharing it, spreading it, promoting it, talking about it, practicing it, blogging about it, teaching it, quoting it, buying t-shirts about it… crazy. about. kindness.
I am SO crazy about it that I felt the need to come up with a unique way to share this passion with my students and to practice kindness in a way that they would remember forever. I wanted to not only read cutesy little books about being kind (even though one of my favourite books is “What Does it Mean to Be Kind”) or practice kindness within the fours walls of our classroom (our number one rule in the class is “Be Kind”) or watch videos about examples of kindness (even though I always love me a good ugly cry kindness story on Ellen…). I wanted to LIVE kindness in our community. I wanted people to think about kindness and associate it with my kiddos and be hopeful that a bunch of 4, 5 and 6-year-olds could change the world. I wanted my learners to know that there are some lessons that aren’t in the curriculum but that will be important to them for the rest of their lives. From that place, Kindness Capes (#kindnesscapes) was born.
Kindness is a focus in our classroom from Day 1 of Kindergarten. Books, videos, storytelling, sharing at our morning meeting, talking about “3 happy things” we saw or experienced at recess… they all help us to define what kindness is and where we see it in our world. We then extend our learning about kindness into our community with our first #KindnessCapes walk of the year.
We talk about how kindness takes courage. It takes courage to help a stranger. It takes courage to speak up when we know something is wrong. It takes courage to give something away that we really want to keep for ourselves. It takes courage to be kind when no one else is. And because superheroes are the most courageous people of all in a five-year-old’s mind, the capes become a visual representation that THEY will be Kindness Superheroes for the day.
They LOVE the capes. And although I am sure that I could get them to go on kindness missions without the capes, the capes bring their enthusiasm and excitement to a whole new level! When they see them hanging on their lockers or in our classroom as they come in first thing in the morning, they KNOW they will be changing the world that day? Those reactions? Those squeals? Those smiles? Those are the ones I live for as a teacher.
(Side note: Since I always get asked, these capes were purchased at Dollar Tree for $1.25 each. BEST $1.25 per student I have ever spent!)
Where do the Kindness Capes ideas come from?
The very first walk of the year is always the easiest one to come up with. That’s because it is the same one I start with every year. It all came from one student’s response years ago when we were talking about the courage it takes to give something away to someone that you really want to keep for yourself. When I asked students what they thought the HARDEST thing for me to give away was, with no hesitation, one student called out “THE COFFEE!”. They know me so well…
So, each year for our very first #KindnessCapes walk we head over to our local coffee shop and purchase coffee to deliver to someone else. I believe in leading by example. And I believe that them seeing ME give coffee (my very favourite thing in the world in their mind!) away to a stranger is the best way to show them that sharing with someone else is much more rewarding than just keeping it for yourself.
I literally had a child cry this year when we did this. We delivered the coffee to some construction workers next door to our school and she felt SO sad for me that she cried! It was a wonderful way to remind her that SHE must have one of the biggest hearts of all to be that concerned for her teacher.
Where do the other ideas come from? That’s harder to write about since I don’t really know! I get inspiration all over the place! Generally, the WHAT and the WHY of the walks look similar. Spreading kindness with notes handwritten or coloured by the kids with some sort of “treat” for the people we are sharing with (art we have made, kind notes, chocolate, plants, flowers, balloons, etc.). But the inspiration about WHO we will see changes all the time. It could be from a newspaper article, a story from our class, a random walk where we interact with people we meet along the way, thanking people who contribute to our community… it all depends on the day! I like to think that whoever we meet along the way needs us in their life for some reason that day. And sometimes we get confirmation that proves this to be true!