Next Friday, November 13th, is World Kindness Day. At Greenwood School, we strive for that day to be no different than any given day at school—sure, we will enjoy some posters and wear some “Be Kind” tee shirts that day. Every single day that we are together here, however, we want each student, staff member, and family member to be able to confidently say “people were kind to me today and I felt respected.” There are, of course, many reasons that a climate that emphasizes Kindness and Mutual Respect is so important to everyone involved. I’ll just mention a few below:
Kindness Builds Trust
Greenwood’s learning environment works because it is built upon relationships of trust between each staff member, student, and parent or guardian. Being consistently kind to someone results in learning more about them as an individual—the more we know one another, the more we tend to encourage one another’s strengths and learn to provide support for areas in which we need work. When the trust relationship is at its best, it becomes a self-feeding cycle of kindness received, kindness given—or as Amelia Earhart said, “A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.” Prolonged kindness builds mutual feelings of respect, which result in trust.
Trust also generates feelings of safety. In fact, in a study of private schools that serve exceptional students—Greenwood’s student demographic—high school students were asked to rank the safety features, programs, and behaviors at their schools. Students who participated in the study identified “Treated with respect at school” as the number one thing that makes them feel safe in their school (Mortimer, 2018). The concept of respect is important—because we are all human and are not always successful in our desire to be kind. When that social collision occurs, respect is what makes it possible for us to repair the damage and to rebuild the trust in the relationship by returning to kindness.
Be Kind because of Science!
There are actually proven medical benefits to being kind to one another—here are just a few, according to psychiatrist Dr. William IsHak at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in California:
- When we observe someone being kind to others, our brains increase production of oxytocin—which can over time result in lower blood pressure and improved cardiac (heart) health (that’s why it’s nicknamed “the love hormone”).
- When we ourselves do or say something kind for someone else, our brains respond by generating serotonin, which is responsible for increased feelings of calm and happiness and is even part of speeding the physical process of healing if we are ill or have an injury!
- Demonstrating kindness can also cause the release of dopamine in our brains. Dopamine is known to create feelings of happiness!
- People who are consistently kind are not only less likely to experience symptoms of depression, but they also tend to live longer.
Be Kind because Many are Not.
We are world-changers here at Greenwood. Our students and graduates and staff make the world a better place one person, one classroom, one school day, one community at a time. We are not only interested in creating and maintaining a physically and emotionally safe environment while our students are here with us—we are preparing them to stand out as examples of the power of kindness in a world that does not always seem to know how to be kind. If I had to choose one thing that I am most proud of our students for, it is that they are good and kind people. Of course we want them to be academically successful, and to achieve their goals for college and/or career after graduation, and I’m proud of them for that, too—but what sets them above all others in my mind is that they are kind. So on World Kindness Day we are going to celebrate what we do well, and we are going to have conversations about how we can help others recognize the need and the immense benefits of being kind to one another!
Cedars-Sinai. (February 13, 2019). The science of kindness. Cedar-Sinai blog, https://www.cedars-sinai.org/blog/science-of-kindness.html#:~:text=This%20feel%2Dgood%20brain%20chemical, neurotransmitter%20that%20helps%20regulate%20mood.
Mortimer, A. D. (2018). Priorities for school safety: The alignment between federal and state school safety legislation and safety needs as perceived by education stakeholders in Florida private schools for exceptional students. (Doctoral Dissertation, University of North Florida). https://digitalcommons.unf.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1827&context=etd