A Transformative Kindness Project for your Class

This week in Peace of Mind class at Lafayette we are turning our attention to kindness.  We have spent the past several weeks working on conflict resolution and now at the end of the year, when the weather warms up and the kids are gearing up for summer, we are bringing our focus back onto kindness. 

In 5th grade we are doing the Kindest Things project.  This is a wonderful project to do with a class.  We take a whole class period and spend it thinking about the best in each one of the children in the class.  One by one we think about each child and write down the kindest thing we can think of to say about them.  I am always heartened by the thoughtful, creative and surprising things the kids have to say about one another.  

There’s one little boy that I’ll call Frank who is a bit shy and awkward and has some serious learning challenges.  As the 5th graders get older and start morphing into pre-teens before my eyes I have worried that Frank would be left behind, that he wasn’t cool enough to fit in.  But I was so thrilled to read the comments the kids wrote about Frank: “the nicest person in the school”, “always has a smile for everyone”, “he is filled with kindness”, “Frank is awesome!”  

Giving the kids a chance to pour their hearts out, anonymously, which is very important for their comfort, is a wonderful way to encourage kindness.  The project allows kids to stop and see the good in every person in the class.  And the looks on their faces when a week later they get the sheet of paper with all of the kind things their classmates said about them is priceless.  I really encourage you to try this project with your students. It’s a bit of typing for you but so worthwhile.  I’ve even had students take their Kindest Things paper to college with them!  

Have a peaceful week!


Mindfulness, inclusion and umbrellas in the rain

This morning as I was walking our dog, I came upon a group of middle schoolers waiting on the corner for their bus. Or I should say, corners. On the right were two groups of talking, jostling kids, huddling close together under shared umbrellas in the rain. On the opposite corner was one boy, without umbrella or hood, weighed down by a soaking backpack. He was looking away from the group, unsheltered and disconnected.

This scenario hit close to home. For the last three years, my partners Linda and Jillian and I have devoted ourselves to developing, writing and publishing our Peace of Mind Curriculum. We believe that teaching mindfulness skills to elementary school students as the foundation for social and emotional learning lessons leads to kinder, more empathetic, happier children, and more inclusive schools. I wondered how much emphasis the school the corner kids were heading to placed on social and emotional learning, and whether the group of kids had considered the lone kid.

As I was approaching the corner, contemplating what I could do to brighten the boy’s day, I saw the kids on the opposite corner begin to look his way and talk a bit louder. My heart sank, my breath constricted, my stomach hurt, and my body’s emotional memories of middle school were triggered, expecting the old story of exclusion and teasing to play out.  And then, unexpectedly my whole body relaxed as I watched what unfolded:

The two groups of kids on corner merged into one, called out friendly greetings to the boy, and crossed the street, covering him with their umbrellas – not to make him uncomfortable, but to include him.  As I passed I saw a slow smile forming on the boy’s face, and felt an easiness in the group.

Beautiful. Hopeful. Profound. A new story. Continue reading