Why teach kindness in school?

Why should we teach kindness in school?

Teachers have an awesome responsibility to mold the minds and hearts of our children. Cultivating kindness in the classroom improves school culture and supports learning, both academic and emotional. It is part of our mission at the Yadkin Valley Community School to teach the whole child. That means that each day we not only focus on academic lessons but also character-building lessons. Teaching kindness in the classroom results in:

  • More positive attitudes towards others and themselves
  • More positive social behaviors and few behavioral problems
  • Better academic performance


Patty O’Grady, PhD, an expert in neuroscience, emotional learning, and positive psychology, specializes in education. She reports:
Kindness changes the brain by the experience of kindness. Children and adolescents do not learn kindness by only thinking about it and talking about it. Kindness is best learned by feeling it so that they can reproduce it.

There are many ways to incorporate kindness in the curriculum. We support student learning through multiple modalities, including: role-play, discussions, games, cooperative learning activities, literature, art projects and field trips. Here are just a handful of the way that we teach kindness at YVCS:

  • Leading by example – Referring to our kids as “a family” and our school as “a community” is a subtle way to show that we are all in this together, working to make the whole better. The way that the teachers and volunteers treat each other and all of the students really radiates compassion and patience.
  • Mindfulness- Mindfulness and kindness go hand in hand. Each day, the kids practice mindfulness for about 10 minutes.
  • Good Vibes – Once a month, during a time that we call “Good Vibes”, Jennifer Bracey from Soul Compass Center comes to our school to empower our children -mind, body and spirit. She plays games (such as the My Feelings game) and does activities to helps them become more aware of other’s feelings and in control of their own emotions.
  • Students Bill of Rights – The class, or community, worked together to develop our own Students Bill of Rights which is signed by everyone. The document includes rights such as “Every student has the right to be heard” and “Every student has the right to be included”.
  • Literature – Books to be read and discussed in class are often chosen because they have themes of kindness, diversity and compassion. Examples include The One and Only Ivan, The BFG and Wonder.
  • Group Activities – To kick off our first week of school this year, the kids listened to a reading of How Full is Your Bucket? which is a book about ways that we make other people feel good or bad through our actions. The book describes the “imaginary buckets” that we each have and how those buckets are filled when people treat us with kindness and drained when we are treated poorly. When our bucket is full, we feel great. When it’s empty, we feel awful. After the story, the kids made origami buckets (bonus math lesson). Throughout the next week, kids will write little notes to help fill the buckets of others. The notes might say things like “thanks for helping me with my math work” or “you are so creative”.

More resources:
Discovery Education, Random Acts of Kindness Foundation’s How-To Guide  and Educator Guide
What if Schools Taught Kindness?