Creating Safe Spaces for our Students

As a 100% high poverty school, Woodlake Elementary has always made it a priority to foster kindness in our classrooms to help our students feel safe, supported, and respected. We decided to accept the Teach Kindness challenge because many of our students deal with adult problems and strong emotions. Often our school climate felt out of control when our students didn’t know how to deal with their own negative emotions. The Teach Kindness challenge gave our teachers easy access to free and user-friendly lessons and activities aimed at developing positive mindsets and strengthening their relationships. We were able to use these resources to create an engaging and safe environment for our students to practice kindness in their daily life.
Our students took the lead during our Teach Kindness challenge by presenting different kindness activities to classrooms while encouraging them to think of one own their own kindness activities. From this exercise students, came up with different kindness projects. Our teams created a Peace Path hallway with rocks, murals, and frog benches painted with positive words and messages. Students, staff, and our community members also put together over 60 backpacks with toiletries, books, frisbees, socks, and more to give to our local women’s shelter. Together we also worked to make their classrooms a safer environment by creating a Peace Center in each classroom for students to go for a quiet time out during the day.
We accepted the Teach Kindness challenge because we wanted our school to be a safe place where all students felt comfortable, accepted, and respected by one another. Throughout our cycle of Teach Kindness we started to see the positive impact the challenge was having in our students. I notice my 5th and 6th graders have become more responsible and willing to help one another. This is a change that parents have also noticed in their homes. One parent shared with us that she has been,
“so thrilled with seeing my daughter come home excited about school…anyone can teach the basics, but Sofia is coming home telling stories about the projects and activities she is performing.” – Sarah, Sofia’s parent
The Teach Kindness lessons and activities have also helped our school create a culture that allows students to share their stories without fear of being judged or disrespected. One of our students had been homeless for the last few years and in the past, he never wanted to share his story and emotions with us. This year, that same student shared his story with his classmates and my entire class supported him and cheered for him when his father rented a house in May. He is still proud of the courage he showed by sharing his story and touched by the support of his classmates.

The Teach Kindness challenge has been one of the most beneficial school-wide programs we’ve committed to. Through the lessons and activities provided by the program our students are learning how to express themselves in a healthy way and are reflecting on how their actions can have positive effects on others. These lessons, rituals, and activities have made us a more supportive school community where kindness is commonplace.