Back in the day at my previous school, I used to facilitate a Random Acts of Kindness Week celebration. I was feeling a bit nostalgic about it, so I asked the leadership team at my new school if we could try it out this year. With my past experience I assured them I could handle it. No sweat.
Spoiler alert: this doesn’t turn out as badly as you’re probably expecting.
Thanks to my ten-year-old notes, randomactsofkindness.org and Pinterest, I had a wealth of kindness activities to choose from. I settled on one major on-going project for the week and two major one-day activities. I’m really glad I didn’t plan five major projects. Since I refused all offers of help (because anal-retentive, over-controlling, I can bring home the bacon AND cook it up in the pan), a big project a day may very well have killed me.
On the Thursday before RAK Week, I sent an e-mail to teachers explaining what I was planning. I included links to kindness activities, attached the schedule of events as well as a kindness bingo board they were welcome to use if they chose (based on one I’d seen on The Inspired Counselor), and offered to loan out my kindness-themed books. The top three I own are Kindness is Cooler, Mrs. Ruler, Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Day, and The Goodness Gorillas.
Excellent communication was crucial for RAK Week. I had to be sure that everyone in the building was clear on what was happening. This was true not only for the teachers and administrators, but also for the custodians, the lunch monitors and cafeteria workers, and the front office staff. Some of my planned activities directly impacted the usual morning routines and lunch procedures.
The Friday before RAK Week, I sent home a parent letter and schedule of events. I encouraged them to support and model kindness at home.
After school on that Friday, I went around the building and put up the signs my Kindness Club girls and I had made. There was a Kindness Zone poster for the foyer, kindness quotes for the hallways, and index cards with kind words written on them that I taped on the bathroom mirrors (an idea from Carol Miller at The Middle School Counselor). I also set up the Kindness Tree bulletin board in the foyer, and put stacks of paper hearts in each teacher’s mailbox.
Each day began with a morning announcement. I wrote most of these and borrowed some from The Inspired Counselor. My Kindness Club girls read them, which was a great lesson for them in bravery and public speaking. Since I hate public speaking myself, it worked out nicely. They announced the theme of the day, gave examples of actions kids could take that fit in with the theme, let them know if there was an activity planned, and read a quote about kindness.
The themes of the day were Manners Monday, Thankful Tuesday, What Can I Do to Help? Wednesday, Thoughtful Thursday, and Friendship Friday. I got a little stuck on naming Wednesday, as you probably guessed.
Two of the three major activities that I had to coordinate were related to theme days. First was on Thankful Tuesday, when I set up an “Appreciation Station” in the cafeteria. After students were done eating, they could come to the Appreciation Station to write a thank you note to any adult helper in the building---not just teachers and aides, but also bus drivers, office staff, lunch monitors, the custodians, etc. I made a thank you note template, and helped the younger kids with the writing. After school I put the notes in people’s mailboxes.
Lesson learned: This was the number one time I could have used a lot of adult assistance, but I hadn’t asked for any. Why? Because I always think I can do it by myself. Well, this time I couldn’t. Many of the kids needed prompting to come up with ideas about what to write, and the littler guys needed a scribe. The only thing that saved my bacon was the presence of my 14-year-old, who (thank God) had a snow day.
The second big project was the Friendship Friday lunch. Instead of having the kids sit at lunch tables by class, I asked them to sit according to their birth month. I encouraged them to talk to kids they didn’t already know well. This was a huge hit with the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders. It was harder for Kindergarten and grade 1, many of whom were unsure of when their birthday is. I had a list, but it took a lot of time to get everyone seated.
Lesson learned: Next year I will probably choose to do this with just grades 2-4.
The third major project was the one that lasted all week. I made a Kindness Tree bulletin board in the front lobby (similar to a photo I’d seen on Pinterest). During RAK Week, whenever students performed an act of kindness, they were welcome to write it on a paper heart. I gave teachers each a stack of hearts at the beginning of the week, and they would leave completed hearts in my mailbox at the end of the day. I put them on the bulletin board after school.
I got tons of positive feedback from students, teachers, administrators, and support staff. Sure, the lunch monitors were a little stressed during the Friendship Friday lunch, but they also loved getting thank-you notes from the Appreciation Station. The Kindness Tree was probably the biggest hit overall.
The whole thing reminded me a lot of childbirth: a huge amount of work, but absolutely worth it in the end. If you’re on the fence about whether you’d like to do this at your school in the future, I say yes---just be sure you’ve got lots of assistants.
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