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Episode 92: The Heartwarming Story of a School’s Kindness Challenge Changing Lives

When Eastlake Elementary School Principal Kristy Howe issued a “Kindness Challenge” to her entire student body, something started happening that likely changed some lives forever.

On this episode of the Supercast, hear the heartwarming story of how students rallied to meet the challenge and succeeded in a way that took kindness to a whole new level at the school.


Audio Transcription

Anthony Godfrey:
Hello and welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey. Elementary school principals issued a kindness challenge to her entire student body. Something started happening that likely changed lives forever. On this episode of the Supercast, here's the heartwarming story of how students rallied to meet the challenge and succeeded in a way that took kindness to a whole new level at the school. We are here at Eastlake Elementary School with Ms. Staley, to talk about the kindness challenge. Thanks for spending time with us here on the podcast.

Ms. Staley:
Thank you so much for letting me be here with some of my second graders. It's exciting.

Anthony Godfrey:
It is exciting. It's always a good day when I get to hang out with some second graders. Tell me a little bit about this project.

Ms. Staley:
Well, all year long our theme has been Color the World with Kindness. The library had came in one day and said we were having a kindness challenge where they would let the kids write down and nominate different children in the classroom for things that they saw happening where someone was being kind. And so that's where my class and all the other classes were able to do this every week. They could write someone new down. So just kind of like catching someone doing something kind.

Anthony Godfrey:
And what were the kind of responses that you received?

Ms. Staley:
Oh, well the library had told me, they said Ms. Staley's class had the most responses. They were amazed at how many people were nominating each other and writing nice things about each other.

Anthony Godfrey:
And do you think that asking students to engage in this way made them realize how much kindness there is around them that they may have overlooked before?

Ms. Staley:
Absolutely! The thing that I was noticing were extra acts of kindness being done in my classroom after the kindness challenge started. It's almost like was more on their brain. After they said, "Oh, have I been kind? Oh, who is being kind of me? What am I noticing?" You could see that it was kind of slowly sinking in with the kids in my class. It was amazing.

Anthony Godfrey:
So it really made everyone a little bit more intentional about being kind. It's about recognizing kindness in others.

Ms. Staley:
Absolutely. It really did. I know in my classroom, we've read a book. Do you guys want to tell Dr. Godfrey what the book was that we've read in our classroom?

Student:
It was called "Our Classroom is a Family".

Anthony Godfrey:
Tell me your name and tell me about that book.

Student:
It's about how people are a family in a class and how they help each other and to help someone when they're down.

Anthony Godfrey:
And what's your name?

Student:
Isabella.

Anthony Godfrey:
Tell me about reading the book, "Our Classroom is a Family".

Student:
Well, it kind of helps readers know that it's not nice to hit people or something like that and care for others because they won't help you when you need help. It's kinda like my sister. She doesn't really help me and I try to help her.

Anthony Godfrey:
And so now that you're thinking about kindness, do you keep trying to help her, even though she doesn't always help you?

Student:
Yes.

Anthony Godfrey:
What's your name?

Student:
Reese, tell me a little bit about what you learned from that book.

Student:
That even though people aren't in your family, they're still kind of like a family.

Anthony Godfrey:
So even if they're not in your family at home, they're still someone that you should treat like their family.

Student:
Yeah.

Anthony Godfrey:
What are some of the ways that you take care of people in your classroom like they're family?

Student:
Being kind, helping them if they need help ,and respecting my class friends and my teacher.

Anthony Godfrey:
I noticed that you all have Stay Kind shirts. Tell me about that.

Student:
Well today the library teachers said out of our classes, ours is the one who shows the most kindness. And we act like a family, the most family as a class, and we got these from there, and we got some treats from them.

Teacher:
They let me know that out of all of the classes in the whole school that they felt like my class was winning the Kindness Challenge by being kind to each other and accepting each other. And they said they love to come to my classroom. They said it's their favorite place to come. And they sent me a very, very kind note a week ago. It had been a hard day, you know how teachers have hard days.

Anthony Godfrey:
Sure.

Ms. Staley:
And I just cried when I read this note because they were talking about how they noticed my kids and how they have extended their kindness and love, especially to some kids in my classroom that had been struggling this year and they just said how wonderful it was to see them reaching out to this particular student that needed some extra love and some extra care. And they didn't ever make fun of him. They tried to do whatever they could to help him succeed. And to me, that has just made my heart so happy to see these kids rally around this one student that needed this help.

Anthony Godfrey:
Does your classroom as a whole feel different because of this challenge?

Ms. Staley:
Absolutely. Everyone has commented on my class this year and what a good group of kids they are and how good they are to each other. And to me, I don't always hear that every year, but this little group, when I had a substitute, they'll write me a note saying, "Wow, you have the best class". And I know that I do. And so that says a lot, you know, when I'm not there, that they're still remembering all the things that we've talked about and practiced in the classroom. From the very beginning of the year, I always teach them to think before they act and to make good choices. And they remember that. And part of this kindness challenge was part of thinking before you do something, how will this makes someone else feel. And they've just totally embraced this, and you can see it in how they treat each other.

Anthony Godfrey:
You can, I'm impressed that the second graders are able to articulate so well what they've done to be kind, and how they're really being intentional about trying to do that. What are some other things that you've learned? Has this changed how you are at home?

Student:
I've helped my mom by cleaning up my room.

Anthony Godfrey:
That's awesome.

Student:
And I've helped my sister.

Anthony Godfrey:
Now, when you say clean your room, does that mean shovel everything under the bed so no one can see it?

Student:
No.

Anthony Godfrey:
How about you? What have you been doing at home to be kind?

Student:
I've been not annoying my brother on a weekends.

Anthony Godfrey:
So let's start with what annoying your brother does look like. What does it look like to annoy your brother?

Student:
It looks like turning off the X-Box.

Anthony Godfrey:
Turning off the X-Box in the middle of a game?

Student:
Yeah. Oh, wow.

Anthony Godfrey:
Yeah, I did that. You really have annoying your brother down to a science, don't you?

Student:
Yeah. He's like nine years old. Almost 10.

Anthony Godfrey:
What else do you do to this 10 year old victim?

Student:
Sometimes I just put bugs in his bed, like fake bugs in his bed.

Anthony Godfrey:
Now what you do instead to be kind to him?

Student:
I clean his room when he needs to go to soccer.

Anthony Godfrey:
Okay. Wow. So it's more than just not being annoying. It's actually helping him as well.

Student:
Yeah, he has a messy room.

Anthony Godfrey:
Oh, so that's a big job.

Student:
Yeah. It's a nightmare.

Anthony Godfrey:
Do you know where everything goes?

Student:
Yeah, sometimes I put his stuff under his bed, sometimes.

Anthony Godfrey:
You know, you gotta do it sometimes.

Student:
But sometimes do you clean it all the way?

Anthony Godfrey:
Yeah, sometimes.

Anthony Godfrey:
That's good. And how about you? How have you been kind at home?

Student:
I'm usually with my brother and he has a hard time taking turns. So usually I will let him take the first turn and let him have the longest turn. And with my sister, she usually gets mad at me a lot. She loves cookies, so we have this big basket of cookies and I just give her something. And then that makes her happy.

Anthony Godfrey:
Well, I love hearing that it has transferred over to home and that you're kind at home and in the classroom and noticing kindness in others. All right. Do you guys have advice for me on how I can be more kind?

Student:
If someone's getting bullied, you can help them and care for them and help them up.

Anthony Godfrey:
Okay. We're working on Bullying Programs all the time across the District. So that's a great idea. How about for you? What advice do you have for me?

Student:
Do you have children at your house?

Anthony Godfrey:
I have two children. One of them is still at my house? Yes. He's 12.

Student:
Okay. Oh, well, if he pushes himself too hard on like math, you could like say, "Hey, it's okay. I could help you with some of it", or something like that.

Anthony Godfrey:
That's great advice. I do that sometimes, but I need to do it more often. That's a really good thought. What advice do you have for me?

Student:
That if something goes wrong, then you could help fix the problem.

Anthony Godfrey:
I really try to do that as much as I can. That's great advice. Thank you for the advice that makes me feel better. Those are the things I can work on. Oh yeah. Your teacher gets to tell me how I can be more kind also.

Ms. Staley:
I just want to say, just keep listening to the teachers. I think you have done a phenomenal job so far as our Superintendent and you're listening to us and you're taking into consideration our needs. So just keep listening. There are a lot of us compared to one of you.

Anthony Godfrey:
Thank you. I will keep trying to do that as much as I possibly can. I always love to hear from teachers. You guys are wonderful. What a great time for me to stay with us. When we come back, more on the Kindness Challenge that led to unexpected acts of kindness throughout Eastlake Elementary School.

Break:
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Anthony Godfrey:
We are here at Eastlake Elementary School with Principal Kristy Howe, who has been here all of a couple of months and has already started a Kindness Challenge. Tell us a little bit about that.

Principal:
Well, we have a great school here that is implementing and nominating their students here to be kind. They fill out a form that they get from their teacher, that they are able to write down a nomination of their peers, whether it be in their class or just a friend that they see on the playground or ride the bus with of how they were kind to each other and how it made them feel. And the students get called down to the office to receive an award and a big congratulations for being such good examples and that is starting to really make a flow through the school of students recognizing everybody being kind and having a positive attitude.

Anthony Godfrey:
And what are some of the results you've seen in school for having this challenge in place?

Principal:
The amount of nominations that I get each day brought down to my office and even they have an envelope up in the library, so they have two places to put it. Our abundance of nominations, I've would say, that I get from all grades, kindergarten all the way up to sixth grade, at least 15 to 20 each day.

Anthony Godfrey:
And what are some of the prizes associated with that?

Principal:
They receive a t-shirt that goes off of being kind and they get to pick from some treats or some toys that are great prizes. Slime is always one of the favorites.

Anthony Godfrey:
I did see slime here in your office and a few other jars of trinkets and treats. So any good elementary principal is well-equipped with that sort of thing. Oh, I even see Uno Kitty from the Lego Movie. Wow. Nice collection. So were you surprised by the results that you saw?

Principal:
I was. I knew that my students would recognize each other for being kind, but I did not realize how much they would go out of their way to ensure that they wrote it down. So their friends get nominated, not so much for themselves, but that their friends are being kind to them. And they wanted to make sure that they were recognized for it. It's amazing.

Anthony Godfrey:
So the nomination process itself has kind of a kindness that you can do something for someone else, nominate them to win a prize when they've done something, a particularly kind has it, has it added to the positive behavior around the school. Are kids more focused on that as a result?

Principal:
I feel they are because they really are getting along with each other a lot more. I'm not getting so many students saying coming up to either the playground aides or their teachers or myself saying this student is, was saying mean things about me. It's more so that these papers are coming into my office, just flowing in. And when they get brought down to be recognized at the end of the day. When I call three or four of them down, they want to know who recognized them so they can go and say, thank you and watch them and nominate them for the next day.

Anthony Godfrey:
I can't stop smiling through this interview because it just so fun to listen to stories about kids, focusing on each other and focusing on being kind. It's a great way to end the school year and send kids into a positive summer. Where did the idea come from?

Principal:
My librarian saw some extra shirts and prizes and said, why don't we recognize being kind? And just by coincidence, I got a couple emails from parents saying my student came home just a little sad. So you're aware that this child was sad, or my child came home saying that a friend or a peer that was not being so nice to them saying things. And I wanted to make sure that I put a positive twist and help students see each other in a different light rather than having to find it as a negative thing of putting others down.

Anthony Godfrey:
Thanks a lot for spending time with us and putting in place such a great program to highlight kindness.

Principal
Thank you for coming out and highlighting it. So it's recognized across the District as a positive thing, and I hope it does carry over.

Anthony Godfrey:
Thanks for joining us on the Supercast. Remember, education is the most important thing you will do today. We'll see you out there.

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