Three Ways to Create a Culture of Kindness at School and Help Prevent Bullying

Yes, it’s National Bullying Prevention Month and no, I won’t be sharing a heart-wrenching chronicle about a child (or a community) who has been devastated by cruelty. Don’t get me wrong, I feel deeply honored to be permitted to bear witness to the incredible stories that people who have suffered through bullying have bravely shared. In my position as editor at Choices magazine, (a publication that focuses on social and emotional learning, health, and well-being for middle and high school students) I have published (with tears) many of them. It’s so vital that we all understand the painful consequences of bullying. But in this post I want to focus on the positive ways that we can inoculate a culture of kindness in our schools, communities, and homes.

Last year, I wrote this post about the research-based reasons that instilling empathy and cultivating compassion is such a crucial approach to our bullying problem. This October, I want to share a fun, project-based learning activity that we created for our magazine’s middle and high school readers—but one that is easily adaptable to classrooms of every age. My thinking behind it was simple: One of the hardest things about directly addressing this subject is that often, the very kids who need it most are themselves struggling with emotional maturity issues, or even mental health challenges. For every child who is bullied, there is a bully who is also a child who perhaps we have failed to reach. Focusing on tools that create a language for desirable behavior and empathy is important, especially for those students who may themselves be suffering—and are expressing their pain by hurting others.

That’s why valuing even the smallest acts of kindness can help create big changes in your school’s climate—it will be simple for some and essential scaffolding for others. Here are three great resources for creating a culture of kindness, inclusion, and empathy at any grade level.

1. Mission Positive (grade 4-12)

Have your students take our challenge to see how many random acts of kindness they can complete. We’ve got all the tools they need—including a fun scorecard to keep track of the awesome things they do. (Tip: If you teach upper elementary through high school cue up this soundtrack before launching to get everyone’s attention!)

2.Common Core Kindness (preK-8)

I love Kriscia Cabral’s extensive lesson plan—especially using The Giving Tree as a part of a paired text lesson.

3. Scholastic’s We Have Diverse Books Pinterest board (preK-8)

Empathy is the understanding of the unique experiences and feelings of another human being, and reading is, in and of itself, one of the best ways to build empathy. This round-up of richly diverse books can help you transform the way your students see the world.

***I hope you'll join us on Tuesday, October 20th at 9 p.m. EST for a special #KindClassroom Twitter chat in recognition of Bullying Prevention Month. Follow @ScholasticTeach and @Choices_Mag on Twitter for updates!