George Lucas Educational Foundation
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"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!

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Estella Doncouse's picture
Estella Doncouse
Fifth Grade Teacher & Kindness Ambassador

Thank you Jackie! Peace AND kindness are a powerful combination that uplifts and brings out the best in all my students. Thank you for recognizing our important work.

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Glenn Anderson's picture

Hi Estella,
Thanks for an excellent article! We also try to avoid the word "bully" in my school since it is such a loaded word, and prefer to say, "If it's mean, intervene!" I am on a school climate committee for my school, and we actually focus more on teacher-to-teacher relationships to help staff feel a sense of community and model kindness to students. I wonder if the "Kindness Challenge" works for adults as well as students? Have you ever been on a committee like this for your school? It can be hard to motivate teachers to get on board, especially without the training needed for the entire school, but we are making progress. This year, we are attempting to implement an advisory program for the school.
Thanks again,
Glenn

(1)
Estella Doncouse's picture
Estella Doncouse
Fifth Grade Teacher & Kindness Ambassador

Hi Glenn,

Thank you for your message and kind words. I'm delighted to report that The Great Kindness Challenge absolutely works for teachers and staff! Kindness is contagious and I have seen the positive effects among my peers. As students are showing gratitude for their teachers and fellow students, the teachers can't help but be uplifted.

One of the reasons The Great Kindness Challenge has been so successful at my school is because it is SO EASY to implement. There is little the teachers need to do besides encourage students to complete the 50 acts of kindness checklist. To make it super convenient for all teachers, I highly recommend creating "Teacher Kindness Kits." The "how to' is in the Great Kindness Challenge toolkit that you get for FREE when you register.

I applaud you for leading the way and for making progress!

Kindly,
Estella

Kristen's picture

I greatly enjoyed reading this post and I feel kindness needs to be at the heart of our teaching and the environment we create in our classrooms! Thank you for sharing such an uplifting post!

Kristen

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I am Bullyproof -Lessia Bonn's picture

I love that you stayed away from the word "bully." I am SO over that word. I only used it in our material title because it works well as a keyword on the internet - people can actually find our SEL material. But like you, it's all about kindness and respect. Focusing too much on a negative word draws too much attention to the dark and not the light! Concur. Love your post :-)

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Subash's picture

Hi Estella,

Wow, I loved the ways you have suggested about spreading kindness, as a result to stop bullying. However, has there been any instance where a child despite being kind and humble was bullied due to different race or colour? As I have heard instances from my friends working around the world on how various students are bullied due to their race or color and even the teachers are harassed in terms of offensive comments about belonging to a certain race.
I am completely in awe with your students for developing empathy and honing multiculturalism skills in them to be a better citizen. I wish if all school could have similar students.

(1)
Estella Doncouse's picture
Estella Doncouse
Fifth Grade Teacher & Kindness Ambassador

Thank you Kristen for your kind words. I'm so glad you liked the article. I completely agree; teaching is best when we connect through kindness. Kindness Matters!

Estella Doncouse's picture
Estella Doncouse
Fifth Grade Teacher & Kindness Ambassador

Hello Subash!

Thank you for your thoughtful comments and for recognizing the beauty of my students. I credit it all to kindness. As we engage in putting kindness into action, students begin seeing beyond skin color and recognize that every person has value. My classroom is very diverse and I have seen firsthand that as I proclaim my classroom as a KINDNESS MATTERS zone from day one, students rise to their best selves and treat others with compassion and respect.

I encourage you to try The Great Kindness Challenge. It is a wonderful tool for students to put kindness into action. Even those students who are not prone to being kind, benefit from the week, and I confident, by the end of the week, there will be a shift. I can't say it enough, kindness matters!

Thanks again, Subash!

With gratitude,
Estella

Estella Doncouse's picture
Estella Doncouse
Fifth Grade Teacher & Kindness Ambassador

Thanks Lessia! It is wonderful to know we speak the same language of kindness, love and light. I recognize that the term bully has helped to bring awareness to the issue. Now it is time to transcend and fully be part of the positive solution. Thanks for your part in creating a culture of kindness!

Lisa McGee's picture

Hi Estella,
I wanted to tell you how impressed and amazed I am at what you are doing with our students!! And the wonderful teachings of "kindness" to your students and to the school's community.
I am a college student and for my research project I have chosen the topic of "prevention of

bullying in schools". There has been so much success in schools that approach the "emotional intelligence" skills of the students. There are effective ways to address bullying, and it starts by recognizing why kids bully. Findings show that kids bully when they haven't
learned to effectively control and regulate their emotions, and when they haven't learned how to create and maintain supportive relationships. Children (students) often times are overwhelmed by feelings like anger, jealousy, loneliness, excitement, curiosity, fear, disappointment, and boredom, And they don't know how to empathize with peers who act, look, and/or feel differently. They can become distracted, and they act out, often cruelly. When we as teachers and staff help them develop their emotional intelligence, they can develop and learn how to recognize, understand, express, label and handle emotions, both their own emotions and those of others. Teaching effective strategies for managing feelings, being able to express even negative emotions in appropriate ways, and behaving
compassionately. These skills can be taught, are being taught and having amazing effects.

Your teaching kindness, compassion, and empathy to your students is an example of providing students with lessons in "emotional intelligence".

Thank you again for sharing such a wonderful story!! And such practices!!
You are an inspiration!

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