Do you see students at your school sitting alone or having a hard time making friends? For many students, navigating the schoolyard at break or finding a lunch buddy can be challenging and overwhelming. Sitting by oneself is a lonely experience. In some cases, students who are by themselves become targets for bullying. Feeling socially isolated can also cause poor academic performance. What does your school do to encourage students to engage with others outside their groups or who may be feeling alone and ostracized? We have a few ideas below to help your students find a welcoming place at school.
For older students, a new app called Sit With Us helps students who have difficulty finding a place to sit for lunch or hang out find a welcoming group. The app allows students to designate themselves as “ambassadors,” thereby inviting others to join them. Ambassadors can then post “open lunch” events, which signal to anyone seeking company that they’re invited to join the ambassadors’ table. Sit with Us is a mobile app that is designed to create a kinder more inclusive school community. It was designed by 16-year Natalie Hampton after she experienced bullying and loneliness during her seventh-grade year. Hampton told Audie Cornish on NPR’s “All Things Considered” that the reason why she felt an app like this was necessary is because it prevents kids from being publicly rejected and being considered social outcasts by their peers. She is definitely on to something - recent studies conducted by Princeton, Rutgers and Yale University show that when students, especially the “cool kids,” stand up to bullying it has a significant impact. During a 2012-2013 school year, over 50 New Jersey middle schools provided their most socially competent students with social media tools and encouragement to combat bullying, and saw a reduction in student conflict reports by 30 percent.
We think Natalie's app is a great idea, especially for middle and high school students. For those schools where phones aren't allowed or whose students are too young to bring them to school, here are a few other ideas to give kids a chance to feel included:
Teaching children the difference between tattling and telling can help a child more than you realize. A child who tattles can often have a harder time making lasting connections with other children around them. Tattlers can be wearing on adults, too. It can be difficult to have patience for a child who is continuously seeking attention by tattling.
That being said, it is equally important for children to understand the difference between telling and tattling. Children who do not want to be identified as tattlers may not tell an adult about a situation when they should. This can be a detriment and can cause issues to arise later.
Here is a simple activity that you can do with your class, at the dinner table, even while driving in the car:
Step 1: Print out the Telling vs. Tattling poster.
Step 2: Starting with you - tell a story where a person is tattling or telling.
Step 3: Ask, “Am I tattling or telling?” You can have your students refer to the Telling vs. Tattling poster.
Step 4: Ask the students to come up with their own stories and present them to the class. Encourage them to ask the question, “Am I tattling or telling?”
For ideas on stories you can check out these additional resources:
Let us know what you are doing to help your children with understanding the difference between tattling and telling. Leave a comment or send us a message.
We've designed our program to be extremely cost effective and budget friendly! The 21 Day Kindness Challenge School Program costs just about $1/student. Our goal is to bring the 21 Day Kindness Challenge to as many schools that want it. Here are some different ways schools have paid for the program:
We believe that giving students the opportunity to raise money for the program provides them with invaluable leadership and career skills. It can also be a bonding experience for students who may be having trouble fitting in or finding friends. Some student leadership groups have raised money by hosting bake sales, rummage sales, runs/walks and other small fundraising activities.
Many school districts have special funds set aside for anti-bullying or wellness campaigns. Check with your district office to see if this is an option for your school.
The 21 Day Kindness Challenge is also a great opportunity to reach out to local community organizations like your rotary club, 4-H, chamber of commerce, Lions Club, etc. for support. Many groups are looking for ways to make an impact for their local students and will provide small grants to your school.
Parent groups are also an excellent resource. You may want to reach out to your parent group (PTA, Home & School Club, Parent Alliance) to see if they will fund the 21 Day Kindness Challenge. We have found that parents are very supportive of programs that will have a significant impact and that directly engage their children.
We are happy to help you! Please contact us, and we would be delighted to provide you with specific funding ideas to meet your school's needs. We have videos, flyers, email, and snail-mail templates, etc. that you can use for community groups and parents.
According to a Canadian study, it takes ten seconds to stop a bully. Can you guess how many people it takes to stop a bully in ten seconds? One! The study found that if even one student spoke up to express disapproval of the bullying incident, the bully typically stopped within ten seconds.
Bullies gain power when no one challenges their behavior. An estimated 85 percent of bullying happens with other students watching. Bystanders often passively watch the incident or aggravate the problem by cheering on the behavior and/or joining in on the behavior.
Here are three strategies you can use to help empower bystanders:
Role play incidents that can foster peer malice and then have a discussion about what a bystander should do to help the situation.
Start the discussions by asking open-ended questions and writing down the answers. Tackle each answer to find a solution that can cultivate kindness, foster friendships and build community.
Many schools have reduced bullying incidents by empowering their student leadership or advisory team to take on the issue of peer malice. Here are some ideas on how to utilize your student leaders or student advisory team:
Charlie Millar leads by example, speaks from the heart, and spreads kindness in all that she does. As the mother of five children, a youth leader, an active volunteer, and school yard duty, Charlie touches the lives of hundreds of students in her community. Children are drawn to Charlie’s down-to-earth approach and warm and caring personality.
Charlie knew she wanted to be the Kindness Coach at
Rio del Mar Elementary (Rio) as soon as the opportunity presented itself.
“Rio had participated in the 21 Day Kindness Challenge in the past, and I had seen the positive impact on my kids and the kids in our community. I saw what a difference the Kindness Challenge made at our school. I was extremely excited to continue the program."
Charlie worked with a group of students involved in the school's leadership program to coordinate the 21 Day Kindness Challenge at Rio del Mar. As a yard duty, Charlie was able to set up Kindness Projects during recess with help from her leadership group.
Doing the kindness activities and projects during recess worked really well at Rio. They had more than 100 students participate in each project doing it that way.
“Being a yard duty was perfect. We see the kids all the time, we engage with them during their breaks, and really know what issues they are dealing with.”
Charlie said that a librarian, classroom aid, resource teacher or engaged parent invested in the campus would also make ideal Kindness Coaches, in addition to classroom teachers.
There was a leadership group already in place on campus, and Charlie encouraged these student leaders and other kids who wanted to be involved to plan and implement the Kindness Challenge at Rio. She worked with classroom teachers to identify student leaders who could help and benefit from the program. Charlie said it was important that she also included students who don’t always get involved. She encouraged older students to support and mentor younger students, and felt that was very successful.
“At our school, the longevity of the program is a really big deal. I am so glad we do it year after year. It gets easier every year, and kids look forward to advancing their leadership roles as they move up in grades. Plus, the more times we do it, the bigger impact it has on our campus.
The 21 Day Kindness Challenge brings unity to our school. That is huge!”
Charlie said that repeating the program is imperative because the foundation of kindness is being built over time. Some students have even asked if they could do it twice in one school year.
Using her leadership group, Charlie said planning for the 21 Day Kindness Challenge was remarkably easy. She said building up her leadership team and empowering them to feel successful in what they are doing truly made a difference.
Charlie loves the difference that the 21 Day Kindness Challenge makes at Rio. She said the students and teachers all had a great response to the program, they talk about the importance of being kind, ask questions and really look for ways to be kind. Charlie said she loved seeing the students spreading kindness beyond campus, too. She said when they made posters to hang up around campus, the students got very excited and started making them for everyone they knew.
“It was so sweet that they went above and beyond, it really spread the Kindness Challenge into our homes and into our community.”
Charlie said she saw a big change on campus thanks to the 21 Day Kindness Challenge. Among the younger students, she said she noticed lots of students wanting to help more, including others, being aware of each other, and talking about kindness. For the older students she saw more physical acts of kindness – picking something up that had been dropped, helping a peer who had fallen. She also loved the way the program includes everyone on campus – students, teachers, administrators, staff. She also noted that the Kindness Challenge was an excellent way of bringing the resource classes closer to the mainstream population. The resource students were able to connect on a personal level with all of the students on campus through a school-wide event and activity.
Charlie is an inspiring mother, volunteer, staff member and community leader. Thanks to her efforts, Rio del Mar Elementary recorded more than 9,500 acts of kindness this year! We hope her story encourages you to spread kindness in your school and community!
Creating a personal teacher/administrator mission statement has powerful positive effects on you and your students. In our 21 Day Kindness Challenge: Classroom Edition we talk about how a teacher’s mood can impact the classroom environment. You can’t be an effective leader to your students unless you have a strong sense of who you are and what you stand for. If you take the time to create your personal teacher/administrator mission statement, you will be a top notch teacher, counselor, and principal.
"Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things." Peter Drucker
Planning in the off season.
Summer is your off season, and it’s a perfect time for you to relax, reflect and plan. John Wooden, late head coach of the UCLA basketball team, took advantage of the off season by focusing on one area in his sport and learning all he could. Wooden filled his days by talking with other coaches, conducting research, reading books and took the time to reflect on his coaching. Take advantage of the time you have this summer to write your personal teacher mission statement, read some inspiring books and plan for success.
Write from the heart.
Take the time to think about what will motivate you to be excited to teach and lead every day. Jot down a few words that resinate with you. Recall the reasons you became a teacher or administrator. Perhaps there was a teacher in your life that you admired, what qualities did that person possess? What do you want to inspire in others? What kinds of things do you want to be remembered for? What qualities do you see in others that inspires you?
Keep it simple.
Try keeping your mission statement simple - one or four sentences. If you would prefer you can also make a bullet point list of powerful words. Block off some time for this as it may take you anywhere from 45 minutes to three hours.
Here is an example of a couple of mission statements:
“To make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind.” - Steve Jobs
“A promise to my students:
Take time to read it daily.
After you’ve completed your mission statement, take the time to read it daily. We suggest reading your mission statement every morning before your students walk through the door. Keep it handy for those moments when you need a little encouragement.
Share your mission statement with us.
We’d love for you to share your mission statement with us as a comment following this blog post or on our social media channels Facebook and Twitter. You never know who you may inspire!
What does it take to bring kindness to your campus?
It is very easy to bring the 21 Day Kindness Challenge to your school! It only requires a few things:
Commitment. The 21 Day Kindness Challenge makes the greatest impact when the school, students and community are all involved.
Is my school ready?
Timing. The 21 Day Kindness Challenge works best when it can be implemented over 21 consecutive school days. We have found that September, October, February, March and April are the best months to hold the 21 Day Kindness Challenge.
Leadership. All you need is one or two adults who are passionate about making a difference on your campus – this can be a school counselor, teacher, aide, yard duty, parent, librarian, ASB coordinator, custodian, etc. – to provide support and guidance to your student leaders. Student leaders – a group of committed, active students who care about their school and campus. Kindness Coach profiles: Nan Singleton and Carol Dudley.
Materials. The 21 Day Kindness Program provides everything else you need to change the culture on your school campus! Elementary and middle school materials include: a kindness guide to walk you through every planning phase, kindness strips to record acts of kindness, wristbands for everyone on campus to remind of their commitment to kindness, kindness boxes, access to our exclusive website, training and support. High school materials include: a kindness guide to walk you and your student group through every planning phase, kindness cards to record acts of kindness, wristbands for everyone on campus to remind of their commitment to kindness, kindness boxes, kindness promise, kind o’meter, access to our exclusive website, training and support. Check out our store for a list of package options.
Be the Change. Learn more about how you can bring the 21 Day Kindness Challenge to your school!
Our book pick for the month is Lessons from the Classroom: 20 Things Good Teachers Do by Hal Urban. In his book, he offers great advice for veteran teachers and new teachers. Urban’s 20 lessons combine a harmonious mix of classroom management, personal improvement, and character development.
“When you focus on developing the whole child, not just their mind, children will learn to do things they didn’t think they could possibly do.” Hal Urban
A book for newbies and veterans.
Hal Urban, a 35-year veteran high school teacher, offers newbies and veterans teachers an incredible tool for creating a kinder, more inclusive school and classroom. Urban gives 20 practical lessons about building community, creating a positive atmosphere, and debunking cliques.
Think outside the box.
Although it is directed at classroom teachers, counselors, librarians, and administrators can too greatly benefit from the lessons found in this book. Particularly, Lesson 6: Good teachers create a caring community; Lesson 10: Good teachers, along with their students, have a mission; Lesson 14: Good teachers help students discover the power of choice, and Lesson 12: Good teachers help their students both own and honor their rules; Lesson 16: The power of quotations.
Suggestion for “others” on campus.
If you are a counselor, librarian, or administrator complete Lesson 6: Good teachers create a caring community. In this lesson, Urban suggests students conduct a two-minute interview with other students in their class, but we suggest you sit down with every student at your school and conduct your own two-minute interview. Here are a few of Urban’s suggested questions: With whom do you live with? You may include siblings away at college (or serving in the arm forces). What is something you own that is very special to you and why? What is an important goal you have for your life? Who is someone you greatly admire? Why? It must be someone you know.
Share your thoughts with us.
We’d love for you to share your thoughts on this month’s book pick: Lessons from the Classroom: 20 Things Good Teachers Do by Hal Urban, with us as a comment following this blog post or on our social media channels Facebook and Twitter.
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Note From the Founder
Hello. I am the founder of the 21 Day Kindness Challenge Program.