Gift #5 – Happiness is Helping Others
My first principal, Mrs. Linda Kehm, of Lakeside Elementary School, was best known to the her elementary students as having coined the phrase, “Kindness Counts”. My younger brother even won an award for his public displays of kindness after I had moved on to the middle school. While I was never bestowed with this prestigious honor, the importance of kindness stuck with me, permanently ingrained, and as a teacher I realize how important it is to emphasize its power to students as early and often as you can.
If you’ve been following along with our recent series, The Seven Greatest Gifts You Can Give Your Students, you might be wondering where to begin, or how to fit it all in to our already over-crowded plates. For us, the inspiration and messaging of our classroom culture of kindness all started with one video. That video was the seed that we planted in the beginning and watched grow all year. Check it out! Watch as the camera tracks a single act of kindness as it’s passed from one individual to the next and (spoiler alert) manages to “boomerang” back to the person who set it into motion.
The Kindness Boomerang is a simple, short, yet striking video that we have watched as a class no less than four times this school year. Like all of our favorite read-alouds, we tell kids that each and every time you watch this video, it’s impossible NOT to notice something new. The layers of meaning and significance are many, and in watching the video at multiple points in the year, we can guarantee that something new will pop up in your class discussion and revolutionize the way that you view the film and the message from then on. If you choose to share it with your class, here are some discussion questions to start you off:
- Why do you think the logo of the company that produced this video is a life vest?
- What does it tell you about our world that this video has over 26,000,000 views on YouTube?
- What is the first act of kindness shown? Who shows it?
- How much time/energy/money did the acts of kindness cost?
- How many acts of kindness can you count?
- How many people were affected by an act of kindness?
- How does listening to the video without music affect the experience?
- Who is the last person to receive an act of kindness?
- Why do you think the video is titled “Kindness Boomerang”?
- What does it mean to you to have a “life vest inside”?
Things That Kids Notice When Watching the Video…
The construction dude was the first to help up the kid who fell off his skateboard… and in the end, it came back to him.
You could encourage people, no matter what.
The people who were in front of him that were skateboarding were trying to get him to come over and skate with them, but the boy chose to help the lady first. He stood for what he believed in.
It doesn’t matter if it’s someone you know or someone you don’t know. You can help anyone with kindness.
I noticed that in the beginning, people made the choice to stop what they were doing themselves to help others instead of doing their own business.
Kindness was something that people smiled about and shook their heads in disbelief over. They didn’t just forget about it either, they did something about it.
Everything we saw in this video made people’s day better. Nobody made anyone feel worse.
It relates to the quote we’ve used before, “People won’t remember what you do or what you say… they’ll remember how you make them feel.”
“The world can be a nasty place. You know it, I know it, yeah. We don’t have to fall from grace. Put down the weapons you fight with. Kill ’em with kindness.”
We can leverage Selena Gomez’s message in her song, “Kill ’em with Kindness”, to get kids to understand the power of kindness. All kids know what it means to be kind. All kids would prefer to treat others kindly. However, we call this one of the greatest gifts we can give because sometimes they need to be reminded of their potential for kindness. Whenever I see an act of kindness in the classroom, I make a point of drawing others’ attention to it. It takes a lot of energy be constantly stopping, acknowledging, and starting again, but giving the kind acts their due applause, we encourage this kindness and it grows.
It is a sad and startling fact that only 25% of adults in the U.S. (roughly 50,000,000 people) perceive that they are living in a kind society. Leaving 75% (roughly 150,000,000 people) perceiving that they are living in an unkind society. What?! Yup – you read right! (Kindness USA 2027) With so many adults feeling that way, it is easy to understand why kids come to school full of misguided and hateful thoughts. This is exactly why it is so necessary to actually take the time to reverse these perceptions and explicitly teach about kindness. If negativity surrounds them at home, they bring it to school. The only way to break the cycle is to educate.
One of the most fundamental lessons I ever learned about creating a positive classroom culture came from my elementary school counselor. His advice to me was “you become what you believe.” I now realize that he may have been quoting Oprah…
Basically, fake it ‘til you make it, but believe that you will indeed make it! It could be the craziest most chaotic day ever, but if you focus your attention and the students’ attention on the one positive thing going on, and say that this is how we act here, this is how we do things, that is what the kids will believe and become. You could expend your energy yelling and screaming and basically acting like Sean Spicer during a meltdown…
… calling every kid out who’s making a wrong choice, but the simple act of acknowledging the positive turns the ship around much more efficiently. In our classroom, we have a couple of built-in features to our day to protect the time to do this acknowledgment.
“Kindness, don’t just do it… LIVE IT!”
The Kindness Wall
One easy way to create a culture of kindness in your classroom is to dedicate a place for kind words and affirmations. In our school, there was an initiative started by some 1st graders, where every single person created a sticky note with a positive message on it. Then the notes were stuck to the outside of everyone’s door for all to see. Students were encouraged to take a note from any wall in the school and give it to a friend to make their day better. Our 4th graders recently restarted this project by creating a wall of positive energy in our classroom. At anytime, kids can pull a sticky note off the wall to either keep or pass to a friend to make their day brighter.
Every day, during the last 10 minutes of class, we turn the microphones over to the kids and allow them to lift each other up as well. We call this time our time for compliments, and it’always a great way to end the day. Not matter how many disagreements there were, no matter how off-track the class got, you always get to promote the positive and hear about all the nice things that kids did for each other throughout the day. It also gives me a chance to highlight especially kind acts that I may not have had time to announce earlier in the day. If I’ve been working with one person in particular, trying to put some positive deposits into their emotional bank, I will try to share one thing I’m proud of about their day.
Books to Teach the Power of Kindness:
Videos to Show the Power of Kindness:
So, as Selena sings, teach them how to be kind. It’s one of the greatest gifts we can give.