How can we encourage students to be kind?
February 17th was Random Acts of Kindness Day – a day when everyone is encouraged to perform selfless deeds with one aim: to make someone else happy.
Having a day dedicated to this popular phenomenon reminds us to be generous with our kindness and extend it beyond our nearest and dearest. And whilst the official day of recognition may have been and gone, spreading the message of carrying out random acts of kindness in our day-to-day lives is a great way to instil a philosophy of compassion in our students, in the classroom and beyond.
1. Introducing the idea
The introduction to the theme could be carried out in a whole-school assembly or in individual classes. Start with a story to ignite their imagination. Perhaps you have performed a noteworthy act, or have been on the receiving end? Or maybe you could seek inspiration from a stranger’s tale such as one of these from Readers Digest.
It’s also important that the children understand that random acts of kindness can be as ‘small’ as smiling and saying “thank you”, and don’t have to cost a penny. Remind them what the Ancient Greek fabulist Aesop said on the matter – “No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted”.
2. In the classroom
Now it’s time to get practical.
Ask the children what acts of kindness would make them happy/have made them happy in the past. If they are short of ideas, the internet has a plethora of suggestions that they could research. Collate all the ideas and create a poster or a checklist. This provides your students with possibilities about what they could accomplish.
A RAOK (random acts of kindness) board could be used to celebrate and recognise times when an act of kindness has been carried out. Students use post-it notes to communicate their positive experiences and show recognition of their peers’ actions.
How about creating a RAOK box? Ideas for random acts of kindness are placed inside. Children can take one out when they please and try to fulfil the task at some point during the day.
3. … And beyond
We also need to show our students that our acts of kindness should stretch further than their immediate environment, and spread a little joy to the outside world too.
Perhaps there’s a retirement home nearby to visit, or you could make cards for the residents.
Going on a class litter pick will help the local community, or how about singing a song at the school gates and handing out ‘happiness’ pictures the children have drawn to brighten someone’s day?!
Kindness doesn’t just affect the recipient. Research has shown that ‘helping others can be beneficial to [one’s] own mental health’ (mentalhealth.org.uk) such as improving emotional wellbeing and reducing anxiety.
With mental health issues in our young people very prominent in the news currently, the benefits of encouraging kindness cannot be underestimated. So let’s ensure Random Acts of Kindness Day merely serves as an annual reminder for our students to be kind. Not just for that one day, but every day.