All It Takes is One Kind Gesture

As educators, we are responsible for teaching the whole child. This includes academics, wellness, and character.

When schools are full of caring kids, they are free to learn. When students feel safe because of the culture, they are more wiling to take risks, helping them reach their fullest potential. This is the exact learning environment we want for students at Milliken Middle School, and we knew completing the Middle School Kindness Challenge would help us get there. 

We completed four activities school-wide as part of the challenge: Communication Speed Dating, Breaking Down Different Kinds of Teasing, Positive Word Cloud and One Kind Word. This was led by our Student Council and Staff.

We created a “Mailbox” for encouraging notes and letters, called the “Uplifting Express.”

We keep it in the office. Students and staff dropped off their encouraging notes for each other throughout the week, and Student Council delivered these notes each Friday at the end of the day. We’ve had several students ask if they could write anonymous notes that we distribute to students who need a little extra, seem sad, alone, or have suffered a loss. Our counselors helped us identity these students so we could bring send some needed encourage their way.

Put-downs and zings are so easy. Our Uplifting Express has helped change the culture of our school because now students put more effort into lifting others up and telling others that they care.

One specific lesson students learned was the power of a kind gesture. Students set a goal of doing something to “make someone’s day.” It could have been as simple of complimenting someone or telling them how much you value them. 

I remember one student in particular: He has a bad reputation of being rebellious and mean to others. I asked him privately what his gesture was going to be and he shared that he was going to encourage one of our quieter students. My heart welled up with hope for that young man.

The Kindness Challenge has really just been the beginning of the kindness movement in our school. It got the ball rolling to truly change our school culture. The lessons, discussions and activities provided for us helped us to see how very simple it is to make a difference. 

I believe schools that accept the challenge open the door to improve their entire school culture. By making kindness a key focus for a month, especially early on in the year, it sets a tone that this is how our school operates and this is what we expect.