Instead of handing out science homework, Marguerite Maze Middle School teacher Teresa Stevens has instead asked her sixth-grade students to keep a kindness journal. It’s known as the Kindness Challenge, and its focus is on showing that kindness can be extended to everyone and in a variety of ways.
Stevens said she got the idea in a teacher group on Facebook, where she saw a post about a school in Ireland that implemented the challenge and thought it would be a good thing to bring to Maze. Her class got started by reaching out to seniors in the community.
“We have Mondays reserved for helping someone over the age of 65, even if they don’t have an elderly relative at home,” Stevens said. “If they are out and about, in a store and see someone older who is struggling, they help them.”
Each student keeps a journal of their kind acts, which they read in class daily. They also write down how the act made them feel. There are challenges including random acts, extra chores and even self-care. Stevens believes it’s important to be kind to oneself. When she sees a student do something nice she makes a note and puts it in her kindness box, which is shared with the classroom on Fridays.
“It makes other people realize that being nice is always a good thing,” said 11-year-old Robert Rendon, who has spent time with a family friend who lost their son. “You cannot be rude because you will be treated the same way.”
After being kind for a while, it starts to become a way of life, Rendon said.
“After they do it for a while they don’t know how to act rude, so they keep on going with kindness.”
Isabella Favaloro, 12, said she feels the program is amazing because “when you are kind good things come to you. It makes you feel better about yourself.” One of her acts of kindness was to help an “abuelita” in the supermarket get some bread at the back of a basket she could not reach, which made both of them feel good.
Stevens hopes her students bring their kindness with them into adulthood and that it becomes their way of life.
“I love it,” she said. “I have done it forever, it was just never named.”
Since Stevens implemented the Kindness Challenge with her students, over 15 other Maze Middle School teachers have worked some form of the program into their classrooms. Principal Diana Herbst said she “highly supports any kindness that goes on.”
“It’s a new year at Maze,” she said.