Names were written on pieces of paper and dropped in a bowl. Then each middle schooler drew a name from the bowl and wrote a message of kindness to the recipient – even if they did not know the student. The message was then posted on the first floor bulletin board of the Middle School building.
“I like your smile,” “You are very kind and helpful,” “Thank you for helping me with --,” You are a great listener,” “I like how you play [this or that] sport” “I don’t know you, but I would like to get to know you because you seem like a nice person.”
These were only a handful of the 240 messages that were posted on the wall.
The effect was contagious.
“The Kindness Wall had a snowball effect,” said Oulaya Samhoun, Middle School Counselor, one of the brains behind the idea, along with Principal Phil Wendel and music teacher Nick Thornton. “It triggered random acts of kindness among students."
Samhoun shared a few stories.
“A new student arrived after we had put up the Kindness Wall, so one of his classmates approached me and asked me if he could still write him a note,” said Samhoun. “Of course, I agreed.” So the student wrote a note that was signed by several other students in the class, and it was posted on the Kindness Wall.
“Another student came and told me that he distributed lemonade to all the workers on the Rabbit Field,” she added. “’Isn’t it Kindness Week?’ he asked me.”
Samhoun explained that the teachers came up with the idea because they wanted to promote kindness, “regardless of how we look, how we act, how we talk.”
ACS implements a social-emotional curriculum throughout all grades, with the intent of developing the well-being of students. In Middle School, each teacher meets with a designated group of about five students once every cycle (or about once a week), during which they discuss social and emotional skills, such as collaboration, responsibility, time management, bullying, drug and alcohol awareness, among many other topics.
Promoting kindness among each other is an aspect of social-emotional development, noted Samhoun.
Indeed, the ripple effects of the activity kept on being felt weeks after it was initiated. More than a week after the board was put up, Middle School students could still be seen during breaks checking the Kindness Wall to read the positive messages they and their friends had received.
“It’s so nice to see all these people writing compliments to others,” said one middle schooler as she checked the board during break. “It spreads positivity.”