HOLTVILLE — The Great Kindness Challenge has been a national phenomenon for some time and Finley Elementary School in Holtville joined this year with a week of activities to highlight for students the better world everybody can make.
The event is a proactive bullying prevention initiative for all grade levels. The challenge is nationally organized by Kids for Peace and was co-founded in 2006 by Danielle Gram, a high school honors student, and Jill McManigal, a mother and former elementary school teacher.
Tiffany Terrill, fifth-grade teacher and Finley counselor, signed up the school as a certified kindness school and invited the Imperial County Sheriff’s Office, Holtville firefighters and Holtville Mayor Ginger Ward to visit on Jan. 31 to encourage students in the homestretch of Kindness Week that began Jan. 27.
“They will be at our gates with positive messages (you shine, you rock, you’re amazing) as students come into school this morning,” said Terrill. “Our county guests then make a tunnel (arch with outstretched arms) for students to walk through as they head to class.”
Students Step Up
Juan Carlos Rodriguez, a fifth grader, is a game player who explained it was a good opportunity to make new friends and for others to get to know him better.
“I enjoy saying good morning to
everybody this week and complimenting people for their good work,” said
Juan. “I like the staff here because they help me get through things and I
like to help the staff. I go to ASES (After School Education and Safety Program)
and I’ve been volunteering as a student assistant this year.”
Zavien Aguirre, another fifth-grade student, used his time during the week to smile at 25 or more people he passed at school.
“I came to the aid of another student,” he confided. “Actually, they were fighting. But with the help of some of the other students we were able to stop the fight.”
Anel Garcia, still another fifth-grade student, explained she believes it will be a better world since the Kindness Challenge reminds people there should be no more fighting.
“I made a friend at the beginning of the year by introducing myself to another girl that nobody liked.” said Anel. “Nobody wanted to sit next to her but I thought I should. I made a note for the lunch lady that said, ‘I like your food.’”
Instructors Discover a Teaching Moment
Ashley Rodriguez, a third-grade teacher also enjoyed participating.
“I think it’s an awesome idea,” she said. “Kids come together and focus on being kind all week long. After today, they’ll try to continue it through the rest of the year.”
Her colleague in the next door, Patricia Ramos, also teaches third grade.
“I think it’s a very valid purpose to take one week to focus on it but kindness should be practiced every day. Kids really enjoyed the activities here and at home (that involved saying something nice to family members),” Ramos added.
The school librarian, Michel Foss, explained the Kindness Challenge was a much-needed concept in the community, schools and work places.
“I felt like it’s our job as leaders to guide our students and show them the way,” she said. “We need to set them an example. I just loved the idea and thought it was a great week. I even got some notes from our students and it totally brightened my day.”
Cultivating the Emotional IQ
Finley Principal Lupita Perez noted social/emotional learning is important. The best way to show it is demonstrating kindness and respect, as well as sharing the activities among the school’s community partners, she said.
“We want to make sure when children come to school they are confident, they know they’re in a positive place, because that enables them to learn more. Occasionally, some students arrive from homes that did not instill a positive atmosphere. So, schools must provide that for them,” Perez noted.
Terrill explained each day of the week was dedicated to a different activity. Monday was for smiling at 25 people. Tuesday, students wrote a thank-you note to a campus staff. Wednesday was for saying, good morning to three people. Thursday, students were to compliment 10 people. Meanwhile, Friday was to draw a picture and give it to someone. “We urged the students to invite a new friend to play,” said Terrill. “Or they could slip a kind note into someone’s backpack. Maybe, show appreciation to our principal in a creative way. Or step up for someone in need. And we can always use help to pick up the trash outside school buildings.”
This story is featured in the Feb 06, 2020 e-Edition.