A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be asked to speak to an all school assembly at Ben-Hem Elementary about “KINDNESS COUNTS!” Principal Ian Kelly and Vice Principal Ben Gatto asked me to come, and I was so impressed by how quickly and quietly the teachers assembled 500 kids into one area.
The students had been meeting by grade in the past weeks to talk about kindness and other social competency skills. Vice Principal Ben Gatto has been reading them books about the value of community and freindship like “Stone Soup” and “Zen Ties” by Jon Muth and “Hunter’s Best Friend at School,” by Laura Elliott.
When I met with the students, I told them that I represented adults in the community as part of our Anti-Bullying Coalition. I asked them who thought kindness was important. All hands went up (including teachers)! Then I asked them who thought that being kind was sometimes difficult and most hands went up again (including mine and all of the adults in the room).
I told them that adults agreed that kindness was indeed very important but not always easy. ”So why am I here?” I asked. ”Guess who is going to teach our community about how to be KIND and how to be a GOOD FRIEND?” ”WE ARE!!,” yelled a chorus of students sitting cross legged on the floor.
I then proceeded to go around the room and hear from child after child about what it means to be a good friend. Answers ranged from “bringing your friend with a bloody nose to the nurse,” to “standing up for a friend who has been bullied.” The students had so many examples of how they could be a good friend that I had to finally cut them off because of time. It is clear that this is something that they have been thinking about and they have wonderful (and very specific!) insights.
I finished by telling them about the KINDNESS COUNTS contest and that they could submit poems, essays or art about the topic of “What it means to be a good friend.” The students seemed happy and excited about this. But when I told them that the winners would be on TV (Natick Pegasus)– that was when I saw the biggest smiles!
Thank you to Principal Ian Kelly, Vice Principal Ben Gatto and the staff and students of Ben-Hem Elementary for allowing me to visit. Can’t wait to see all of the students entries for KINDNESS COUNTS!