Each Thanksgiving season I try to take a moment to pause and really reflect on what I’m grateful for. This year, what stands out in my mind are the many educators, students, families, and schools I’ve had the privilege to work with who have made it a priority to embrace kindness.

Even with so much already on their plates, the educators who participate in Teach Kindness make time for their students to learn about empathy, emotions, mindfulness, and other fundamental life skills because they know it will serve students well both now and in the future.

I hear from educators constantly about how Teach Kindness and a focus on social and emotional skills has enriched their school community and created a culture of positivity. Schools change for the better when kindness is made a priority.

I want to sincerely thank the school communities that have made kindness a centerpiece of their work. And I especially want to thank every person who has given their time and resources to Teach Kindness this year and enabled this program to reach children and families across Illinois.

You can just feel it when a school has made kindness one of their core values. Students seem at ease and the school’s environment is warm and welcoming.

I feel it at Palmer Elementary in Chicago where special education teacher Tracy Caronia’s positive post-it notes left for students light up their faces with pride. She sees the difference kindness makes for her students, especially the younger ones who, because of pandemic disruptions, are having their first “normal” school year ever.

And I feel it at Wagoner Elementary in Sauk Village. There, students created positive affirmation posters that are displayed on their lockers. These affirmations remind them every day that they have the power to be kind to others. Educators at Wagoner distribute anonymous Kindness Grams to each other – short notes of gratitude that create waves of positivity among the staff.

These schools have made kindness a part of their identity. They are building schools where everyone feels welcome, valued, appreciated, and seen. The results are amazing!

Teaching kindness makes an impact on students and educators alike. Up and down Illinois, schools have embraced the lessons of Teach Kindness and made a deep impact on their school communities.

I hope you will join them in making kindness part of your daily routine and spread the word that schools are more welcoming when they teach kindness.

As a special education teacher, I try to make all my students feel appreciated and important. That’s why I’ve made it a habit to place positive post-it notes around the classroom, written specifically for each child. I’ll leave one on a student’s folder or the spot they typically sit. I’ll mention how I noticed they said something nice to another child, or how I see that they’re working really hard on an assignment.

The look on their faces — how they light up with pride when they read their notes — that’s everything. With one simple act of kindness, I’m able to lift their self-esteem, build their confidence, and hopefully inspire them to spread kindness, too.

Today, on World Kindness Day, what’s one small but powerful thing you can do to spread kindness?

This is most of my students’ first normal year of school due to pandemic disruptions. Many of them are struggling with skills they would’ve otherwise developed in early grades, including empathy and problem solving. With Stand’s Teach Kindness lessons and activities my students can practice these fundamental life skills, socialize with intention, and learn how their words and actions affect others.

Through engaging and interactive exercises, Teach Kindness gives my students opportunities to understand their emotions and find their place in our classroom community. I’ve seen such a positive change in them since participating in this program.

After a student reads their positive post-it note, I often see them tuck it inside their take-home folder or slip it into their backpack. It’s a reminder that kindness has a lasting effect, and the more kindness we can exhibit toward one another, the better off we’ll all be.

Please consider what you can do today to make someone feel seen, appreciated, and important.

As a little girl, my mother and grandmother taught me to treat people how I wanted to be treated. I think most of us have someone special in our lives who taught us that lesson.

As a teacher at Carver Elementary School in Chicago, I try to model that lesson and pass it down to my students. Kindness and empathy are skills to be taught like anything else.

The Teach Kindness program allowed us to focus on an impactful way to show kindness, through a Gratitude Jar. If a student does something nice for someone or someone does something nice for them, we add a note to the jar, hoping to fill it with small acts of kindness.

Even during the pandemic when we couldn’t be together in person, we started each day with a focus on kindness. The students had time and space to talk with each other, act out scenarios to show kindness to others, or talk about kindness in their own lives.

Students felt a sense of community, even online. They felt like they belonged.

Teach Kindness worked then, and it continues to work for us now. It’s become an expectation at Carver, something we’ve all agreed to do. It is a part of our school’s culture. And that kind culture has been honored with the 2020-2021 Kind School Award, a recognition we are so proud to have!

Teach Kindness allowed us to double-down on our school’s dedication to social-emotional learning and our students and staff have benefited from that commitment.

We can all learn something from this commitment to kindness. As we approach the holidays, I hope you have something to add to your own Gratitude Jar.

P.S.: Read more about each of the schools honored with the 2020-2021 Kind Schools award. Teach Kindness is open to all Illinois schools, so any educator looking to learn more should reach out to Brandi Watts at Stand for more information.

I often find that some of the best lessons for my students are the ones that build upon each other and are built into our daily lives.

That’s definitely the case with the lessons in Teach Kindness, a program we implemented at Fiske Elementary School in Chicago. As the school year progressed, the lessons on kindness and empathy did, too.

Our students jumped in with both feet, even taking some of the lessons home with them (during both remote and in-person learning). In many cases, that got their parents involved in the kindness curriculum as well.

In fact, after a recent parent meeting we hosted here, parents left refreshed and encouraged. They said they related to the kindness topic and the positive messages we had for them and their students.

This really served as a reminder of what we should be doing on a daily basis. COVID-19 has shown us, crystal clear, that SEL supports for students are vital. By bringing those supports into daily lessons, we meet students where they are and make kindness a part of our school’s culture. And by making kindness a part of our culture, we were lucky enough to be honored with the 2020-2021 Kind School Award!

The materials are right at teachers’ fingertips. All we have to do is teach it. We all should take the time to be kind, no matter how busy we are. By investing that time, we’ll see improvements across the school, the community, and the city.

I hope you’ll join us.

P.S.: Read more about Teach Kindness and the other schools honored with the 2020-2021 Kind Schools award. Teach Kindness is open to all Illinois schools, so any educator looking to learn more should reach out to Brandi Watts at Stand for more information.

Everyone loves a good shout out, right? Especially when it’s for something that makes our community a better place.

That’s why I love the special Kindness Shout Outs we have at Beard Elementary on Chicago’s Northwest Side.

When a student gets “caught being kind” we recognize them for that wonderful act and put it on a bulletin board for everyone to see. I can confirm that students LOVE these shout outs for being a good friend to their classmates.

At the end of the week, the student gets to take home their shout out. We also share images with parents so they can celebrate their child’s kindness too.

These acts of kindness and recognition have helped bring joy and positivity to our school community, a welcome sense of happiness given the pandemic and challenges of the past year.

The Teach Kindness program helped us elevate our work and make students feel loved and connected during this disjointed time. It has really motivated them to be better in the classroom, to each other, and as a community. And our school community was recently “caught being kind” and honored with the 2020-2021 Kind School Award, recognition we’re so proud of!

For other educators looking to make a difference at their school, I can honestly say that even though this has been a difficult year, participating in Teach Kindness is not adding more work to your plate, it’s adding more joy to your day. Bringing positivity and kindness to your school is totally doable – and it really does make school a happier place!

I hope you can make shout outs like this a part of your school’s culture. I’m so glad we have. And the students and staff here at Beard continue to make the days brighter and kinder for everyone – something we could all use a little more of these days.

P.S.: Learn more Teach Kindness and the other schools honored with the 2020-2021 Kind Schools award. Teach Kindness is open to all Illinois schools, so any educator looking to learn more should reach out to Brandi Watts at Stand for more information.

With all the news and the disruption we’ve experienced these past 20 months, one simple but powerful thing helped students at Palmer Elementary make it through remote learning and return safely to classrooms: kindness.

And while things are getting better, both in our school buildings and in many of our communities, the effects of the pandemic are still being felt by many students and staff.

During remote learning, we saw an increase in students exhibiting behaviors related to depression, anxiety, and even suicide ideation. Some of this behavior has even returned this school year.

Students as well as educators were hungry for connection and support. Teaching kindness made connecting easier. Students communicated better. Bickering and miscommunication decreased. They were kinder to each other and to school staff.

Kindness helped our students deal with the uncertainty and turmoil of the pandemic. The Teach Kindness lessons were essential to our school community. They gave us a common language for everyone to share. They made it easier for students to speak up if they or their classmates were not being treated properly.

The positive impact it has had on our school culture cannot be overstated. Not only that, our hard work and focus on kindness was recognized with the 2020-2021 Kind School Award!

Making the world a kinder place has helped in the classrooms, in the hallways, and in the community. It helped here and can help in any Illinois school.

P.S.: Read more about the other Illinois schools honored with the Teach Kindness 2020-2021 Kind Schools award. Teach Kindness is open to all Illinois schools, so any educator looking to learn more should reach out to Brandi Watts at Stand for more information.

“Coming to Wagoner is like coming to a Grand Opening!”

When a new student told me they felt that way walking into school each day, it stopped me in my tracks and reaffirmed my commitment to making our school community a kind place.

As the principal at Wagoner Elementary, I can say that kindness is not just a word to us – it has truly become a part of our DNA. We talk about it. We live it.

We’ve lived kindness so much so that we were honored as the 2019 Teach Kindness National Champion, recognition for the hard work and commitment of every person in our school and neighboring community.

When the pandemic hit shortly after that recognition, it only reinforced our dedication to kindness. Through remote learning and as students began returning in-person last school year, we re-doubled our efforts in each classroom (online and in-person). It was an overwhelming time for everyone – it still is in many respects – but focusing on kindness helped alleviate some of the stress for students and staff. We’re so honored that this work was recognized again with the 2020-2021 Kind School Award!

Social-emotional learning has been a core part of our identity for years now, but the Teach Kindness program helped us elevate that work. The resources, supports, and lessons were a tipping point for our school, helping us take our work to the next level.

In fact, when you’re submerged in kindness as a matter of course, it’s so much easier to be kind in return. From our morning Community Circles to a Kindness Tree we added to our hallway, Wagoner has made kindness central to who we are. Everyone is bought in.

Our school’s unofficial motto is “you are loved and you are safe.” When a school makes a commitment to kindness, the outcomes can be overwhelming and heartwarming, just like that student’s Grand Opening feeling.

My wish is for every student, no matter their school, to have that same feeling every day.

P.S.: Read more about Teach Kindness and the other schools honored with the 2020-2021 Kind Schools award today. Teach Kindness is open to all Illinois schools, so any educator looking to learn more should reach out to Brandi Watts at Stand for more information.

With the holidays fast approaching, I thought now was the perfect time for us to highlight something we can all celebrate: kindness.

In 2017, Stand and other valued partner organizations launched Teach Kindness, a suite of best-in-class social-emotional learning activities, to help schools teach students the skill of kindness. We knew then that social and emotional skills were essential to healthy child development, but we did not know that a global pandemic would exacerbate the need for those skills both across the country and right here in Illinois. In the past year and a half, teachers have taken on more than ever, and still, many have remained committed to teaching students to be kind.

We are pleased to honor six Illinois schools with the 2020-2021 Kind Schools award, highlighting their dedication to ensuring a safe and caring environment for their students and staff by teaching kindness.

  • Daniel C. Beard Elementary School
  • Edmund Burke Elementary School
  • George Washington Carver Elementary School
  • John Fiske Elementary School
  • John M. Palmer Elementary School
  • Wagoner Elementary School

Over the next few days, you’ll hear stories directly from these schools about the impact kindness has had on their school communities. The pandemic has made personal connections and student engagement both more difficult and more important, whether learning remotely or in-person. These schools went above and beyond in their implementation of Teach Kindness, with tangible, positive results to show for it.

Teach Kindness is available to any school community free of charge. The program provides access to research-based tools and resources to schools looking to incorporate kindness into the school day and make kindness a practical, commonplace skill for students.