Finding Your Voice Through Kindness

Accepting the Middle School Kindness Challenge was an easy decision for Goff Middle School. The Kindness Challenge program was a perfect fit with the ongoing district wide anti-bullying program being conducted with support from the National No Bully organization. There was an immediate interest of the administration and staff and a Kindness Committee was quickly assembled. The focus of the committee was to engage the teachers and students in the Challenge with the goal of making Goff a kinder place for everyone.

The Kindness committee knew that getting students involved was going to be crucial to the success of the program. We asked our students, “Do you want to make Goff a kinder place?” About 30 students responded by attending an afterschool meeting. At that first meeting, we asked the students to tell their stories. The committee knew then that we had something special. Students told moving stories of their experiences that made them want to make a difference.

“I asked my students at a team meeting if anyone wanted to make Goff a kinder place. The students who responded were the quietest students on our team. The Kindness campaign gave them a voice.” – Ron Patenaude
The students began to work on a variety of Kindness projects with the help of a group of dedicated teachers. Nate Rebello and Maureen Toth worked with students on designing Kindness T-shirts while art teacher Melanie Moe worked with students on painting “Kindness Rocks” that were placed in the community to share messages of kindness. Jen Bromley worked with students on designing and displaying a compliment box where students and staff could submit acts of kindness. Lori Chadwick and Richard Santoro worked with students on a Kindness News program where students would announce acts of kindness and read messages from the compliment box during the morning announcements. Ron Patenaude began working with students on a Buddy program that would train students to be mentors for students who would attend Goff the following year. Maureen Toth created a powerful video of students and staff that emphasized our slogan, “Put the I in Kind”, which was submitted as part of our documentation for meeting the Challenge.

Our principal Lisa Ramzi demonstrated her commitment to Kindness by dedicating an entire professional development day to Kindness. The Kindness committee began by showing the video that Maureen created. Teachers were given time to register for the challenge and explore the lessons on the site. Then the staff took some time to write personal messages of kindness and encouragement to every student in their advisory classes on sticky notes. These notes were then placed on student lockers so every student had a message waiting for them when they came to school the next morning. This kick off to the Kindness Challenge created the “buzz” we were looking for and we knew that we were on the right track.

It was determined that all of the students in the school should participate in the chosen activities and time was allotted each week for the classes to focus on Kindness at the same day and time. The focus on Kindness for those 30 minutes each week was quite impactful. All of our faculty participated and we exceeded the program goal for completing and rating the lessons by 40%. The students could be heard talking about the activities and seemed to understand how kind acts can have both a positive effect on themselves as well as others.

One of the other groups that evolved from the Kindness Challenge was the formation of a Buddy Program. The Buddy Program was developed with the premise that older students would mentor incoming 6th graders to help provide them with support as they transitioned into the middle school. Over the summer it was determined that the new Buddy program was a perfect addition to the ongoing anti-bullying program. The two programs are now working together to create a pilot program at Goff this year that can hopefully be used district wide in the future.

The new school year has started with 32 students participating in a training on how to be a “Buddy” which was conducted by Kathy Grey, Director of Training/Lead Trainer for No Bully. These students learned about bullying and some valuable techniques on how to offer support to the new students they are being paired up with. Kathy was impressed. She said, “I keep picturing those students and how excited they were. The program has the potential for being a model for the district and beyond. The excitement of this group of young leaders is contagious and the success of this new program is proving to be in very capable hands.” In addition, 41 new sixth graders have asked for a Buddy. We are now in the process of getting them together and allotting time in the school day for the groups to work together.

Goff Middle School is a large urban school with students and staff from very diverse backgrounds and life experiences. The Kindness Challenge provided opportunities for everyone involved to learn to accept and empathize with each other while working together to make the school a Kinder place. Any school who chooses to accept the Kindness Challenge will certainly reap great rewards.

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