This piece is based on our conversations with Joaquin Tamayo, National Director of Program, and Daniel O’Donnell, National Director of Outreach, both from the Kind Schools Network at Stand for Children. Previously, Joaquin served as Assistant Director of the Aspen Institute’s Education and Society Program and Director of Strategic Initiatives at the U.S. Department of Education. Daniel was previously the Deputy White House Liaison to the U.S. Department of Energy and the Nashville City Director for Stand. Stand for Children is a national non-profit that works to ensure a better education for all children through family engagement and policy.
Stand for Children and The Middle School Kindness Challenge
Over the last several years, many schools have witnessed a disturbing increase in bullying, harassment, and disengagement in their classrooms. Even though its work has historically been focused on family engagement and policy, Stand for Children, a national non-profit organization, decided it wanted to do something about it.
In partnership with leading experts in social-emotional learning, Stand for Children created a suite of activities that can be used by teams of teachers to instill kindness and help improve school culture. It currently has 32 activities and exercises in its portfolio that are designed to be used during a 1-month “challenge” period. Even though its activities were designed with 4th-8th graders in mind, educators will find many of them are easily modified to fit younger or older groups of students. Best of all, this set of activities is completely free!
3 Steps to Kindness
Here’s how the Kindness Challenge works.
Step 1 – A school registers at The Middle School Kindness website and has a staff meeting to get at least 50% of faculty members on board. The reason for this is because the program’s effectiveness depends on having a critical mass of teachers supporting it.
Step 2 – Participating teachers select 4 different activities (again, from the 32 available) to teach over the 1-month challenge period. The activities fall under four different categories – Developing Positive Mindsets, Fostering Empathy, Strengthening Peer Relationships, and Promoting Cyber-Kindness – and take anywhere between 10 and 60 minutes to complete.
Step 3 – Schools reflect on their experience and commit to the creation of a kindness ritual. This step is intended as a way for schools to own their experience and ensure that kindness is an ongoing aspect of school culture. In fact, the Kindness Challenge has spurred students at numerous schools to create student-led “Kindness Clubs” that help keep the school’s momentum going.
What Kindness Can Do At Your School
If you aren’t sold on kindness yet, it turns out it can produce some pretty solid results at school. In the Fall 2017 cycle of the Kindness Challenge, schools that completed the Challenge in Guilford County, North Carolina saw significant decreases in referrals leading to in- and out-of-school suspensions (33% and 11%, respectively). When compared to other district schools that did not participate, the trend was even more pronounced.
Participating teachers also loved the Challenge: 9 out of 10 educators left the experience willing to recommend it to peers. The improvement in student connections and discipline was enough to sell these educators on the program’s benefits!
Register Now! And Additional Questions
April 15th is the last day to register for the spring-2018 Kindness Challenge. The reason is to give school teams enough time to complete their activities and create a ritual before the end of the school year. So now is a great time to create a team of kindness captains at your school and get your program rolling!