For an educator that directly supports students (for far more than the 40 hours a week they’re contracted to), thinking about a typical school day might bring the concepts of social and emotional health – even more so than the typical themes of science, recess, and math. 21st century educators can identify the need for social emotional health in the classroom. And while “social-emotional health” is a mouthful, sometimes all that really means is “teaching kindness.” Students don’t need to be taught how to be kind, but promoting kind behaviors through creating a kindness challenge for students can make a huge difference in a school’s environment.

The Secret Kindness Agents

Ferial Pearson of Omaha, NE was onto something when she created The Secret Kindness Agents, a project rooted in the discovery that students enjoy being kind and benefit from being kind. Following the devastating Sandy Hook tragedy, Ferial Pearson started to explore the question “Can one act of kindness make a difference in students’ lives?” As it turns out, it can.

The Secret Kindness Agents allows students to perform secret acts of kindness under an alias to promote kindness and create a healthy school culture. Students as young as Kindergarteners choose an agent name and create missions surrounding kindness. Some teachers have noted that the secret agents benefit from distributing kindness as much as those receiving the random acts of kindness.

While this kind of project may not be revolutionary, it has reminded a lot of people that one small good deed can positively impact someone’s day. When a student is learning in a setting that fosters kindness, it spreads like a wildfire.

Where to Start?

With the inspiration to implement Social Emotional health into the classroom, where can a teacher start? There isn’t one single place to begin. The real task is to choose one project that promotes kindness and start. Whether you choose to implement a project like The Secret Kindness Agent, or simply give a few more compliments per day, students will benefit immensely. Now that teachers are driven towards teaching Social Emotional skills in the classroom, it has become apparent that there isn’t one single grade level that would benefit most from this kind of education. Instead, every grade level should be exposed to what it means to be compassionate and kind.

The Compassion Project is a program that walks students through the concepts of compassion, empathy, how to be a good friend, etc. The Compassion Project is available to Elementary School students at no cost. For Middle Schoolers, Character Playbook does a great job at teaching students healthy communication skills and conflict resolution techniques. Honor Code, developed for High School students, takes a practical approach to bullying prevention by defining relationships, leadership, resilience, courage, and community.

Andee Hugenberg is a Schools Manager for EVERFI serving schools in San Diego, where she was born and raised and spent her summers lifeguarding on the beach. Prior to working for EVERFI, she worked as a 6th and 2nd grade teacher in Omaha, Nebraska and also has experience teaching English as a second language in Germany. 

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