It all started with a simple conversation about kindness back in September. With a new configuration of students, and some students brand new to Avenues, it was important to establish a classroom community of inclusivity and respect. We first created a list of classroom rules – child-generated ideas that everyone agreed on to help keep our bodies, our classroom and our school safe and happy.
A few weeks later, after reading inspiring books such as How Full Is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer, and Reach Out and Give by Cheri J. Meiners, we decided to conduct a social experiment with our students. We introduced the Kindness Jar simply by saying, “This is a Kindness Jar. It’s going to collect all the kind things we do for each other in the classroom.” The only rule was that you couldn’t report on your own act of kindness – someone else had to witness it and ask a teacher to write it down. We reminded the Tigers and Butterflies of our classroom rules, and agreed that the acts of kindness had to be more than just sharing or saying something nice to a friend. And that was it. With an empty glass container sitting on the desk, you could feel the intrigue and mystery start to bubble, and the desire to fill the jar was almost tangible. We never told the children how many acts of kindness they needed to perform. We didn’t bribe them with a party, or tell them they would get a special present. Regardless, the jar began to collect tiny tales of gratitude. Each day, without reminders, children would report to teachers about the kind acts they witnessed.
A Tiger proudly shares an act of kindness.
So what is the incentive?
At the end of each day, we read the acts of kindness aloud. When a child hears their name connected to a kind act, they beam. They don’t get a sticker, a congratulations or a medal. They simply get the gratification of helping someone else.
When the empty space inside our jar started to dwindle, the children decided that 30 acts of kindness seemed like it would be the right number to fill it up. And when we reached 30, we celebrated. We celebrated by reading all 30 acts out loud. We celebrated by having snack together. We celebrated by reading a kindness mantra, and pledging to continue to keep up our good work. We celebrated with pride, and embraced the goodness that being a kind person brings.
Tigers celebrate filling the Kindness Jar.
The Pledge of Kindness.
Butterflies read the Pledge of Kindness.
And when the jar was empty, they got right back at it.
Filling the Kindness Jar.
It’s not easy to give someone the first turn when there’s an exciting new material out at arrival. You’re not required to stop eating your favorite lunch to help a classmate at another table wipe up a spill. And you don’t have to stop playing a spirited game of Paw Patrol to help your friend find his hat on the roof. But they all did. And still do. And they feel good doing it.
Two Tigers hold the Pledge of Kindness.