I know that “improving education for all children” evokes ideas of things like equitable funding, college readiness, teacher effectiveness, and other policies. But there’s another piece of the puzzle, one that doesn’t scream “education” on the surface: kindness.
Quite simply, students have a much more difficult time learning and getting value from school if they are being harassed, bullied, or regularly punished. It’s why we’ve decided to take on kindness as a pillar of a great education. Recent reports of discrimination, intolerance, and hostility in schools have devastated me.
I was dismayed to see the increase in reports of bigotry and hate in schools after the 2016 election. Children should feel safe, accepted, and welcome in school. It broke my heart to read about students being taunted because of their race or religion. About 27% of middle and high school students report seeing hate-related graffiti in school. How can those students focus on nailing down algebraic formulas or practicing verb conjugation when they’re being harassed?
Our Middle School Kindness Challenge aims to eradicate this behavior before it can truly take hold. We chose middle school because 31% of 6th graders and 25% of 7th graders report being bullied in school, which is more than for any year of high school. Through a series of classroom activities and schoolwide events, students will practice kind behaviors, such as acceptance of differences and active listening, and teachers and administrators will foster and celebrate kindness.
Research has shown that school environment is a huge contributing factor to students’ well-being and future potential. If schools across the country participate in the Challenge and wind up with a more welcoming and positive school environment, then it can only help lead to a more successful future for our nation.
You can join our efforts by donating to help expand our program to reach thousands more students, by following along with the Kindness Challenge on social media, or by bringing it to your school.
Our children should be learning science, not slurs. It may seem like a simple idea, but it’s time to make kindness the norm.