Club Spreads Kindness at WES and Beyond

Customizing their personal Kindness Club tee shirts are these students of Woodland Elementary School, each of whom embraces the concept of kindness and how it can make the world a better place. (Photo by Lura Jackson)

By Lura Jackson

A group of students at Woodland Elementary School took part in “the Kindness Club” through the month of October with the assistance of 6th-grade teacher Jane Smith – and in so doing, they embraced and promoted a concept which they firmly believe can challenge bullying behaviors.

“Kindness means helping others when people are being picked on, or they’re being hurt mentally or physically,” explained Grace Howard. “I believe that no one should ever be bullied... you shouldn’t pick on someone just because they’re different.”

Grace is one of approximately 15 students that came to club meetings once a week throughout the month. Each meeting involved working on a particular activity designed to spread kindness throughout the school – and well beyond.

One of the projects in which the Kindness Club is engaged is Operation Christmas Child. “We made boxes from cardboard and we filled them up with little toys and we send them to people that need them,” explained Shaeyn Ferreira, who sees it as a valuable way to engage in “helping others less fortunate than us.” The filled boxes are sent to children all around the world.

Each of the students conducts school outreach, including 6th grader Denny Woodruff who joined fellow club participants in “giving a speech about the importance of wearing orange to unite against bullying” in each classroom for Unite Against Bullying Day, he explained. For Denny, kindness means “being helpful to anybody that is in need, and just to be loving.”

Students set personal goals for themselves during the month as well, Liam shared, describing how “Kindness sheets” worked for the club. “If you do something nice or kind, you write it on your sheet,” he said, emphasizing that his goal was to fill his whole sheet with kindness.

Sometimes the reminders to be kind were more passive in nature – serving as important daily reminders to everyone that saw them. The students crafted “Kindness bookmarks” that were distributed to every student in the school, each of them bearing positive adjectives. Each student in the club made a personalized tee shirt related to the club, giving them the opportunity to share positivity with everyone that sees them.

Woodland Elementary’s Kindness Club was a spin-off of the annual Octoberfest Unite Against Bullying Walk organized by Dawn Smith. Dawn’s mother, Jane [Ms. Smith], started the club as a way to encourage uplifting behavior to flourish. “There are so many kind students at Woodland Elementary School, and I want them to have the opportunity to spread the simple act of kindness,” Ms. Smith explained. “Kindness needs to be a self-taught skill, and students need to have the opportunity to enhance that skill. Everyone can be encouraged to be kind and to demonstrate respect to others.”

According to Ms. Smith, “Everyone needs to be kind at all times.” Ms. Smith underscored that it is not just something to do when you “wear a crown” or something that is contrived, but rather all students should be involved all the time with sincere acts of kindness.

The club has hosted guest speakers, including Cassidy Carr, the reigning USA National Miss Maine Junior Teen. Carr demonstrated how impossible it is to put toothpaste back inside the tube once it is squeezed out, a metaphor indicating how it is impossible to take back harsh words once they are spoken.

 

While the Kindness Club was only in existence for the month of October, its influence is ongoing – and it may be coming back next year. “My hope is that the Kindness Club will continue to be an integral part of the students’ environment at Woodland Elementary School and that students will emanate that small acts of kindness are the right thing to do,” Ms. Smith said. “I believe that if one taps into the deep, profound kindness within, it dictates ‘This is just who I am: a kind person spreading kindness to others.’”