I don't know about you but I always found the message of Anti-Bullying Week a little negative. I completely agree we should do all we can in schools to reduce incidences of bullying swiftly and effectively because it can have a profoundly negative impact on both the victims and the instigators. But positive psychology, and good behaviour management, tells us that if we want to stop a negative behaviour, focus instead on the behaviour you wish to see!
Which is why back in 2012, I re-branded anti-bulling week in my school to 'It's Cool To Be Kind Week'. The idea was simple - every child from Reception to Year 6 was encouraged to carry out a random act of kindness at home or in their local community. They had to capture what they did in a piece of home learning (by drawing, taking a photo, or writing) - explaining what they did as their act of kindness, and reflecting on how it felt to reach out and be kind to someone else. We created a display in our school's reception with some of our children's efforts.
The response was immense and the children were creative and very thoughtful. Some children simply helped out with chores around the house to help their grown-ups out, others took toys and books to a local children's hospital. There was a palpable feeling of co-operation and cohesiveness in the school (it must have been all that oxytocin!) and even an Oftsed inspection falling in the middle of the week couldn't ruin the helper's high we were all experiencing!
The following year we grew our It's Cool To Be Kind Week by tasking each class to go out of the school, with their teacher, TA and some parent volunteers, to spread kindness in the local community. Some classes wrote kindness notes and attached them to the front of Metro newspapers, others sang renditions of 'Dont' Stop Believing' to commuters early one morning. Again, the feedback from the public was great! One person wrote into our head to say, "I just wanted to say that I was moved to tears yesterday by the beautiful singing from your pupils and staff! It was just so heartbreakingly amazing! As the mother of a mixed-race son, it was just so beautiful to see the students standing there together in harmony. Whatever you're doing, keep doing it. If this is the future my son would have at a local primary school, I would be so proud and happy."
Having done It's Cool To Be Kind Weeks in the two schools I've worked in, over a period of 8 years now, I know the power they can have to promote kind and pro-social behaviour among children, parents and staff. This year, I want even more schools to take part which is why I'm giving away for free the 'It's Cool To Be Kind' chapter from my book, Wellbeing In The Primary Classroom.
Simply follow this link to download the chapter from the resources and downloads page - there are lots of ideas for how to bring a Kindness Week to life in your school (as well as sharing lots of research from the science of kindness too!). Then, during your It's Cool To Be Kind week (anti-bullying week is 11th November - 15th November) please tweet about what you've gotten up to using the hashtags #Teachappy #ItsCoolToBeKind and tag me in if you can - @AdrianBethune as I'd LOVE to see what you got up to!
If we want our students to take good care of each other, model how to be kind, encourage them to be kind, and give them opportunities to express their innate kindness. That's the simple idea behind It's Cool To be Kind Week.
Adrian is a primary school teacher and author of Wellbeing in the Primary Classroom – A Practical Guide to Teaching Happiness.