Thursday, July 17, 2014

Random Acts of Kindness in the classroom.

Schools have become high pressure environments.  The constant demands to raise test scores  (despite the widely held belief that test scores have little genuine value outside of the institution that generates them)  and the expectation that schools will cope with society’s inequalities and the resultant behavioural issues that go hand in hand with that mean there is little time to enjoy the process.  
But surely this is simply unacceptable – self-evidently wrong in fact.  Going to school, learning and becoming educated should be an enjoyable experience.  Fortunately there are some schools brave enough to go well beyond the norm who continue to teach what is important.

 “Random acts of kindness” is a simple yet powerful method of learning about social contribution, tolerance, and simply being a decent individual.  Call it “citizenship” and you can even squeeze it into the curriculum. In essence it is simply doing something positive for someone else with no thought of return or personal benefit … or even recognition. And it turns out that helping others is probably the best way of helping ourselves.
Have a look at the what happened at one school in the USA. Pitt River’s ”Breakfast Club” provides a powerful insight into what can be achieved.


At first glance “Random Acts of Kindness” seems to be a concept more aligned to hippies reluctant to leave the 60s behind than the classroom of today.  Yet it would be wrong to think that way. Even if the notion doesn’t resonate with your personal value system there is significant and growing scientific evidence to support the positive impact of concepts such as gratitude and compassion in our daily lives.  “Scientists” with a capital “S” are finding plenty of reasons to engage in socially meaningful activities. The Greater Good site based at Berkeley is one source of research backed by science that educators would benefit from visiting.  There is also a support site for schools interested in trying the approach.

The only question I have about the whole process is the name. Kindness in our schools should not be random.  Along with the essential subject skills contained within the testable curriculum let us continue to teach what is really important – how to live meaningful lives.

Pitt River Random Acts of Kindness video via youtube
Random Acts of Kindness graphic via Google Images here.
Greater Good & RAK support site links both go to original sources.