A few years ago, I noticed a bit of divisive behavior on our campus between certain groups, and I went on a hunt for a program or idea for how to address this divide. After noticing this gap, I constructed a Diversity Focus Group to get a pulse on our student community.
The message was clear; there was a perceived separation between different cross-sections of our student population for a variety of reasons. While looking for ideas, I stumbled across the DBN website and I was hooked! The team was very responsive and easy to work with, which made the experience that much better.
As a school administrator, we’re often in damage control mode. But I wanted to be proactive, and use my insights to drive the direction of our school culture.
What is school culture?
School culture is the backbone of all learning and interaction on a high school campus. School culture is something that needs to be worked on intentionally and consistently; it is not something that should be left to its own development.
I truly believe that every high school campus innately possesses a certain level of kindness in its staff and student body.
However, sometimes the negative can outshine that kindness and care.
When we originally designed the first DBN week in 2020, we were looking for a program or initiative to highlight the kindness that I witnessed every day. The kindness in our students already existed and I wanted to bring it to the forefront of our school's culture.
With that in mind, here’s how we worked together to create and continue our kindness week.
5 Activities For Your Kindness Week:
1. Kickoff for Kindness in Homeroom
Students will watch Kick-off Video and Vote for Kings/Queens of Kindness
Students write letters/create cards/posters etc. to give to individuals they want to recognize for their kindness at school or at the feeder schools.
2. Community Day
Clubs select one business in the area that supports the school to visit and show their appreciation. Clubs/Teams are provided with a standardized frame for group pic or letter with surrounding signatures/designate a student or the group to deliver it to the business.
3. Community Clean-up
Sign-up Genius for different clean-up locations around the campus with different lead teachers. Students sign up as individuals and can earn community service hours.
4. Staff Recognition
Recognize a staff member that doesn’t get much attention (i.e. para, café worker, administrative assistant, custodian, etc.) Clubs/Depts adopt groups/individuals they want to celebrate.
5. Random Acts of Kindness Day
Develop a Random Acts of Kindness list with students and staff. Crown the Kings and Queens of Kindness. Announce raffle winners from the Random Acts of Kindness tickets. Students will be given a post-it note. They will write something they are grateful for, a positive mantra, or something they enjoyed from the week. Teachers will post on their doors or on the classroom wall. Teachers will send a pic to Admin.
BONUS: School-themed Fun Run
We ran an Obstacle Course Run in teams of 4 around our campus. Winning teams in different categories earned medals.
Note: here’s a video snapshot of our Kindness Week approach!
Reminder: Kindness can be simple!
Promoting kindness can be as simple as a sticker or a compliment! We have had great success passing out handmade Valentines with motivational sayings or affirmations on them. Students LOVE stickers! Sometimes a simple shamrock sticker can make anyone smile!
We ran a “#caughtbeingkind” initiative during our kindness week this year during which staff handed out raffle tickets to students who were “caught being kind” to someone throughout the week. Then, at the end of the week, we pulled names out of the bucket and handed out prizes that were donated by our community partners.
And the impact? Exactly what I was hoping for.
Students have noticed the impact that a simple thank you note or kind gesture can have on that individual. Teachers, staff, and students can all be recognized in some capacity and the chosen ones normally aren’t the people that are in the limelight.
I have certainly seen a positive shift in our culture since we started the kindness weeks. We still have work to do, but that is why we will continue the effort going forward.
By Jennifer Jones, Ed.S, Assistant Principal at Etowah High School.