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What is kindness beyond a simple compliment?
“It’s more than just ‘I like your shirt’,” said one student. “It’s standing up for someone who is being peer pressured!” shouted another. For these students, kindness is deeper. Kindness is exercising empathy, compassion and taking the time to switch perspectives and “walk in the other person’s shoes”.
“The Kindness Club started out as a sort-of anti-bullying movement,” said Sunset View Elementary Social Worker Chris Bringhurst. “But instead of telling kids to ‘Stop bullying’, ‘Don’t bully’ and ‘Stop this or ‘Stop that’ we thought it would be more effective to say things like, ‘Be kind’, ‘Say kind things’ and ‘Do kind things’. Taking this positive approach has been more beneficial and provides a positive environment for students.”
“I often meet with students going through hard times,” said Bringhurst. “Whether it is a challenge at home or school, I help identify and treat symptoms like depression and/or anxiety. I guess you could say that I see the dark side sometimes. I try to educate the students on warning signs to look out for they might recognize when their peers need help. Not that I’m asking the students to be that help, but to be a connection in getting them that help. And maybe that starts with a kind act.”
“That is the more powerful story here,” said Bringhurst. “When students are able to understand a situation and reach out. I can tell you right there, that that has saved lives.”
Megan Cunico (Dixon Middle School Counselor) agrees and shares how the kindness club as positively impacted her school. “Having the kindness club in our school makes kindness cool. It makes kindness normal. Normalizing and talking about kindness is holding our students accountable and setting a standard across the board for all students.”
“The middle school I went to did not have a kindness club,” said Cunico. “I can tell you that the overall climate of that school is very different from this one. I’m see a big difference between schools that have it and schools that don’t. I can tell you that the kindness club does make a difference.”
“We let the students run the group and have them decide, within reason, who they want to help and what they want to do. From clothing drives to writing notes to soldiers, we help facilitate it and make it happen because it is important to the students.”
The kindness movement, at its core, is helping kids feel safe at school. It doesn’t matter where they come from or what language they speak, our schools want them to feel accepted. When they come to school, it is important for them to know that they have someone there who cares about them so we can continue to cultivate a environment of acceptance and support.