It's heart-warming to see so many teachers embracing kindness and having such a big focus on character in their classroom. It's always made sense for kindness to be taught in the schools because, to me, it's the foundation on which all other values are based. Kindness is the opposite of bullying so it makes sense that it should be fostered to give students a sense of belonging and reduce anti-social behaviour.
Recently, I've been fortunate to connect with several amazing ladies who have started Kindness Clubs! Yep, there are actually clubs dedicated to this good old-fashioned value and they're doing a lot more than just teaching kids to be kind!!
I caught up with two amazing educator friends, Rachel Willard from Landolt Elementary and Barbara Gruener, a retired counsellor in Friendswood, Texas. Rachel told me about the kindness club she'd recently started at her school while Barbara spoke about the "Secret Agents" kindness club she started at Friendswood Jr. High.
What was the inspiration behind starting a kindness club at your school?
Rachel: We wanted to be able to offer something for our younger children to be part of and to nurture a sense of belonging.
We then heard Houston Kraft speak to our district. He said, “being nice is reactive, being kind is proactive, you have to consciously do something about it.” We felt we could get the kids active with this, show them how easy it is, give them ideas of things they can do. Teach them, light a fire under them.
Barbara: Our sixth-grade Secret Agent's Kindness Club was started after two separate pairs of girls came to me as their school counsellor asking for my help to facilitate carrying out their Random Acts of Kindness. The one pair had the idea of putting uplifting messages on Post It Notes and stick them up all around the school; the other two started a collection of gently-used books so that they could donate them to children who’d lost their books as a result of the floods that Hurricane Harvey left in its wake. Mid-semester, I introduced the two pairs and so began their Secret Agent Kindness Club.
How was the idea received by students and staff?
Rachel: The response from the students was overwhelming. We opened it up to first and second grade. There are only two of us, so we thought 25 – 30 would be a good number of students for the club. We had about 65 sign up!
We could not turn anyone away from wanting to be kind, so we set up two sessions. Half of the students for the current nine weeks and the other half for the next nine weeks. We've now completed our first session.
We had several teachers come and offer to help us. They have really enjoyed it. The parents volunteered to send snacks each week and do a pizza party on the last day for the students.
The club has received some kindness back as well. A group of teachers sent a thank you note with a large bucket of candy to the kids for all they have been doing around the school. This was such a great lesson for them, to see that it does cause a ripple and keeps on going and can come back!
Barbara: The staff at both schools were opened to facilitating their efforts and eager to help. They were also so grateful to be on the receiving end of some of those kindnesses. The students are having a good time trying to figure out who is behind the random acts.
What has the club done so far and what do you have planned in the future?
Rachel: We always start off with a snack and a story. So many great ones out there about being kind. Then we head off to do something kind.
The students have written notes to the teachers, “Thank you, We love you, You rock, You are amazing, and so on…” We attached them to popcorn and let the students put it in the teacher’s boxes (they had so much fun going into the workroom and seeing the teacher’s mailboxes). The response from the teachers was amazing. They did not care that much about the popcorn, they kept talking about the notes! Such a simple thing made such an impact.
We gave the students sidewalk chalk and they wrote messages at the entrances of the school. My favorite was “You Matter”. Other’s wrote, “Be someone’s rainbow, Be kind, You are loved, Have a great day.” We gave them some suggestions before we started, they quickly added their own sweet messages.
They made placemats for the homeless shelters at Thanksgiving. They wrote beautiful messages on these as well. Much like the sidewalk. One student wrote, “I hope you find a home soon.” They had a great time doing this but then lit up when they saw the pictures of the people using them and smiling while holding them up.
They decorated kindness bookmarks with the same messages, "Be Kind, you matter, you are loved, have a great day..." They then put them in random books in the library for others to find as they check out and read the books.
My favorite meeting was talking about empathy. We talked about all the different feelings that we all have and how we can have empathy for others. This was a big word for these littlies. They created a bracelet with a pipe cleaner and different beads. They chose a bead that they felt best represented each feeling for them and put them on their bracelet. This was the first time they did something that they took home (besides feeling great about being kind).
Of course, we did the Kindness Club drink cart for the teachers. A big hit! We will do this again but are thinking it will be a snack cart. We will have water with different mixes to add and lots of snacks for the teachers to pick from.
We will repeat some of the things for the second group but plan on adding some new things as well. Our school has two Buddy Benches. These are not labeled or painted to show that is what they are for. We will be letting the kids paint them to bring new life to them and encourage them to be used for what they are intended for.
We would like to start a kindness chain too. A paper chain with kindness acts written on each one. It will be great to see the chain grow throughout the year as kindness is given and recorded. We are thinking the cafeteria would be a great place to hang and watch it grow.
When the older kids are testing, we will be giving them a piece of candy with an inspirational message on it.
Barbara: Before leaving fifth grade, the four Secret Agents asked fourth-grade teachers to nominate students who could take over their efforts at the Intermediate once they’d gone on to the Junior High. It was at a beautiful luncheon on the last day of school when they passed the baton to the rising fifth graders who would take their place as Secret Agents of Kindness at Bales Intermediate. Then off to sixth grade they went, where they now meet weekly with the school counsellor there, planning their intentional acts of kindness. So far this year, they have recruited a few more Club Members, including some boys, so that their membership totals almost twenty.
They have put Smile Cards on teachers’ cars in the parking lot, put inspirational Post Its on the bathroom mirrors and on lockers in the hallways, put together a Hot Chocolate bar for the teachers at holiday time, and made cards of encouragement and empathy for the victims of the hurricane at a North Carolina school.
How has the club made a difference to individuals and the school culture?
Rachel: We are partnering with the student council, they are fifth graders, to greet students as they come to school in the mornings. Two younger and two older will stand at the entrances and shake hands and say good morning to students as they arrive.
A fifth-grade class noticed the things we were doing and told their teacher they wanted to do something as well. They decided to buy a book for their book buddies. They meet twice a week with a first-grade class and pair up to read. The fifth graders each bought a book for their first-grade buddy and gave it to them for Christmas. We really think this kind of thing will continue to spread and grow.
Barbara: Anthony Douglas Williams once encouraged, “Do an act of kindness every day and your soul will be in constant bloom.” That’s the best way to describe what has happened to our climate when we cultivate a culture of kindness. It creates a win-win because the students involved in initiating the kind acts get the same happiness high that the students and staff who receive the kind acts get. It’s especially incredible for students to show kindness to their teachers, to uplift them, to express gratitude to them.
What tips can you give schools who want to start a kindness club?
Compelling reasons to start your own kindness club
Do you have a kindness club at your school? We'd love to hear how yours operates and the kind things your students do. Please email us and share your photos!
Your Kindness Clubs
South County Regional Library Kindness Club meets once a month. Set up by the public library who partners with a neighbouring school, the club has 20 grade 2-6 members.
"We started the club in April 2018. Each month we do a project to benefit the community and promote kindness. We have made cards for soldiers and firefighters, toys for animals at the Humane Society, friendship bracelets for the Children’s Hospital, Kindness Buttons to share, and more!"
- South County Regional Library Kindness Club, Estero, FL
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AUTHOR: Lisa Currie - Ripple Kindness Project
Lisa is the founder of Ripple Kindness Project, a community and outreach program, and primary/elementary school curriculum. Passionate about improving well-being and reducing bullying, RIpple developed a whole school, evidence-based SEL, kindness and mindfulness curriculum to build character and emotional intelligence to nurture positive, happy and safe school communities.