After presenting to a handful of schools, I was left with a nagging question — was it possible to proactively affect bullying? Working to improve school culture often hinges on a central goal: to reduce bullying. Far from being merely a behavioral issue, bullying also affects academic achievement and attendance rates. Schools seeking to minimize bullying often find that the clearest path toward this goal lies in the teaching of kindness.
Transforming School Culture Through Kindness
What if I were to tell you that the opposite of bullying is kindness? While it seems almost too simple to be effective, teaching kindness as a core value can sharply reduce bullying.
Most educators are familiar with bullying as a part of school culture, though it may not always be easy to spot. Students report greater incidents of bullying in areas where social activity takes place quickly, such as hallways and stairwells. Even the transitional activity of settling into a classroom at the beginning of a class period can trigger bullying behavior. However, teaching students what kindness looks like in these fast-moving social situations can help to encourage compassion throughout the school day and beyond.
Why Teach Kindness
There are more benefits to teaching kindness than the reduction of bullying. The boost you get from giving and experiencing kindness has a basis in brain chemistry, including increases in:
- Serotonin – Serotonin helps with learning, memory, mood, sleep, health, and digestion
- Oxytocin – Oxytocin reduces stress and lowers blood pressure
- Endorphins – Endorphins produce feelings of happiness and relaxation
The sense of belonging, improved self-esteem, and increased peer acceptance are all happy side effects of a culture of kindness in schools. Improved focus, engaged learning, and greater attention spans help boost academic achievement, too. From an educator’s perspective, who wouldn’t want a classroom filled with happy, relaxed, focused students?
Kindness is Free
Perhaps the best part about teaching kindness is that kindness is free. You don’t have to have an exclusive certification, you don’t need a special set of tools, and there is no age requirement. Anyone at any age can practice kindness. Plus, kindness is a quality that increases as it is spread. It only takes mindfulness and effort, even in the smallest of ways, to be kind.
In fact, lesson plans for teaching kindness are free in many cases, too. A simple search on Pinterest or Google will turn up dozens of great ideas to help you create an atmosphere of kindness in the classroom. Professionally developed lesson plans found online include:
Random Acts of Kindness Day
As your students begin to learn and practice kindness among their peers, challenge them to take it a step further. Extending the lessons of the classroom into the larger school community is one way to test what your students have learned.
The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, an internationally recognized nonprofit based in Denver, Colorado, established Random Acts of Kindness Day in 1995. As part of the larger Kindness Movement, this special day encourages people everywhere to be deliberately kind. This years’ Random Acts of Kindness Day will take place on February 17, 2018.
As part of a kindness curriculum, your students might opt to leave encouraging sticky notes for others on campus. Or you might want to challenge them to spread kindness even further by working with a parent to brighten someone’s day in the community. Brainstorm with your students to come up with ideas to spread kindness. You may be surprised at their creative ideas.
The joy of being kind with no expectation of reward is a powerful force. Kindness costs nothing to give, and the gains are limitless!