In schools across America, it’s becoming cool to be kind.
The encouraging trend is playing out in a lot of ways, according to The 74 Million, and it’s inspiring everyone from a band of bikers to famous rappers and creative teachers to get involved.
In late August, dozens of Chicago-area bikers set the tone when they learned of middle school student Megan Kuntz, who was terrified to face bullies who tormented her at school last year. The massive biker entourage escorted the girl to her first day of class to send a message that they have her back.
“The next thing you know, I’ve got a whole family back here that’s supporting my daughter,” Jill Kuntz, Megan’s mom, told WLS. “She’s on cloud nine today going to school for the first time.”
Atlanta rapper T.I. also intervened in the case of a University High School sophomore who was denied school lunch over a 15-cent lunch debt. T.I. lashed out at the school and cafeteria worker who confiscated the girl’s lunch, then put $1,000 in her food account to ensure she’d never have to hungry again, WKYC reports.
T.I.’s generosity inspired others to launch a GoFundMe campaign to settle other students’ delinquent lunch accounts, as well.
Meanwhile, in Memphis, Tennessee, four students at Hernando Middle School created their own campaign of kindness by coming to school each day at 6:30 a.m. to personally greet each of their classmates as they came into the building.
“Kindness is like butter. The earth is toast,” seventh-grader Cody Eaton told Local Memphis. “You have to spread it around.”
“One time every morning someone has said, ‘Hey, why are you doing this?’” eighth-grader Bethany Wilder said. “And I think it’s nice for other people to know that you don’t have to have a reason to be kind. You just have to do it and make someone’s day.”
In Charlotte, North Carolina, teacher Justin Parmenter worked to lift his students’ spirits in a different way, through a heartfelt message from their parents. Suring the Waddell Language Academy’s open house, he asked parents to pen inspiring notes to their children he can hand out when they’re having a rough day.
Parmenter posted some of the loving notes to social media, where many parents and educators commended his efforts to start the school year off on the right foot.
“Writing an encouraging note is not only about letting someone understand they’re appreciated, but making yourself think about what it is that you appreciate,” the Charlotte Observer noted. “That’s a good assignment for the first day of school, and for lots of others.”
The emerging culture of kindness in many schools is a product of school and community leaders, teachers, parents and others who have worked diligently to raise awareness about bullying and other issues and to change the dynamic by setting a positive example, and creating habits and traditions rooted in kindness.
James Davison Hunter, founder of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, highlighted exactly why that’s important in “The Content of Their Character,” a summary of character education in a variety of American high schools.
“What empathy we feel may help us understand someone else’s needs, and even feel the desire to help that person,” Hunter wrote. “But without embedded habits and moral traditions, empathy does not tell us what to do, nor when, nor how.”
The National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers union, publishes free resources for educators to “supplement, complement and support positive behavior goals.”
The association also provides K-12 lesson plans to promote kindness in the classroom.