School Climate

Kindness Matters: Transforming Your Classroom

Bullying will cease when you make kindness the heart of your classroom, engage with the community, provide youth leadership opportunities, and participate in service projects.
photo of a student holding a sign which reads "Kindness Matters"
Photo Credit: The Great Kindness Challenge

"Kindness matters." What a joyful mantra to use! There's plenty of evidence that science backs up the positive effects of kindness, so let's take a look at five joyful ways that you can transform your classroom.

1. Establish kindness as the heart of your classroom.

Integrate kindness into everything you do. I begin the year with the Peace Pledge and focus on the first line: "I pledge to use my words to speak in a kind way." Throughout the year, we stick to this in all we do, whether in the way that we treat others or ourselves. When we start a new lesson or attend an assembly, we always circle back to ensure that kindness is present. As we weave kindness into all discussions, it becomes ingrained in our daily habits. "Kindness matters" is our class motto, and students joyfully decorate the classroom with those words and happily wear kindness wristbands year-round.

2. Participate in The Great Kindness Challenge.

The Great Kindness Challenge is a powerful one-week initiative that challenges students to complete as many acts of kindness as possible, using a checklist of 50 suggestions. I've witnessed the joy flowing from my classroom, through the halls, and onto the playground as students simply smile at each other, clean up the campus, or invite a new friend to lunch.

I'm delighted to say that, four years ago, The Great Kindness Challenge started right here at my school! We were one of three pilot schools in Carlsbad, California to take the challenge. It's free, simple to implement, and designed for all schools, pre-K through high school. Once you sign up, you'll receive everything you need for what my students call "the happiest week of the year!"

In partnership with Kids for Peace, my class helped to create the 50 acts of kindness checklist. My students are still amazed that what started at their school has blossomed into a worldwide movement involving over two million students last year. They couldn't be prouder to be a part of something that is changing their school, their community, and our world for good.

If you need an extra dose of smiles and inspiration, check out the following video of The Great Kindness Challenge in action:

3. Engage the community in kindness.

Kindness is contagious! Let the joy spread throughout the entire community. The Great Kindness Challenge toolkit is chock full of fun and engaging ideas to spark your imagination about unifying your school and community.

One of the highlights for our school during that happiest week of the year is a Kindness Community Tunnel, with students receiving high fives and an uplifting welcome from our mayor, superintendent, firefighters, police officers, and local business owners. I also invite the media to cover our school's special events that week. I've noticed how my kids feel a sense of importance when they see that their actions are applauded and newsworthy. This attention boosts their self-esteem and motivates them to continue their cycle of kindness.

4. Provide youth leadership opportunities.

I love to see my students in action. One of their many leadership opportunities is taking complete ownership of implementing The Great Kindness Challenge at our school. With guidance, my students break into teams, brainstorm, plan, and manage their respective responsibilities. They utilize their communication skills in a respectful manner, and I see confidence flourish when they are leading the way.

5. Participate in service projects.

Throughout the year, my students identify causes that they care about and plan service projects to address those issues. We focus on the school, community, and larger world around us. Some of our past projects include creating a Peace Park on our school playground, hosting a Senior Love holiday program at the local senior center, and making Peace Packs for children in Egypt, Pakistan, and Mexico. This year, my students plan to participate in the Kind Coins for Kenya initiative to help build a school in a remote village. It's heartwarming to observe their compassion and empathy evolving as they help others.

So! Have you noticed that I haven't focused on (or even used) the word "bully"? That's because I believe it's time to shift our paradigm toward creating what we want -- kindness -- instead of talking about what we don't want. Kindness inspires positivity, opens minds, causes a chain reaction of goodness, and has the power to transform your classroom. Yes, kindness matters!