SMSD News: Kindness Week – Inspiring a caring culture throughout the year

The Shawnee Mission School District (SMSD) is dedicating time to celebrate and focus on creating a culture of kindness. SMSD Kindness Week is January 24-28, 2022. This week is held with the goal of inspiring acts of kindness not only during the week, but every day of the year.

Every school in the SMSD is observing Kindness Week in its own way. Some will dedicate time to write notes and create artwork to brighten someone else’s day. Some classrooms will work on service projects, while others will dedicate time to learning about and discussing the concept of kindness.

SMSD’s kindness week focus supports the development of student interpersonal skills, one of the main objectives of the district’s Strategic Plan. One of the Strategic Plan beliefs is that “every individual has inherent worth and deserves to be valued and celebrated.” By dedicating time to intentionally practice kindness, students and staff will demonstrate how they uphold this belief with their actions.

In school buildings, Kindness Week helps set the tone that schools value kindness, respect, and empathy, shared Julie Johnson, social worker at Indian Woods Middle School.

“It is a week that helps us dialogue and think of ways we can show kindness to others and encourage each other to continue throughout the year,” Johnson added. “My hope is that students and staff take away that one simple act of kindness can lead to a ripple effect of kindness throughout our community. We all play a part in making our community kind.”

Kindness Week helps support Rhein Benninghoven Elementary School’s mission to be a “community coming together for students” and its vision to be “a place where everyone pursues their greatness,” noted Paula Pyle, the school social worker.

“Kindness Week serves as a reminder of our purpose,” Pyle shared. “Each day we work to ensure all students feel safe, comfortable, and connected. When this occurs, the school climate is improved and engagement increases.”

Kindness Week will look different at every school. Here are some examples of how students and staff plan to engage:

  • A student leadership team at Merriam Park Elementary has developed a plan for the week, including a Compliment Day, when encouraging words will be shared throughout the school. Students will share daily kindness activities for everyone in the school to engage in during morning announcements. Student leaders will also interview peers in their building about how their class engaged in kindness.
  • Multiple schools, including Indian Woods Middle School and Shawnee Mission North High School, will work on collaborative wall displays as one of their activities. Indian Woods students will take pictures of themselves representing the “I” in “kind”, to be shared on a school bulletin board. SM North students will be writing on paper light bulbs, completing the sentence “Brighten the school with kindness by…” The answers will be put on display in the high school.
  • Rhein Benninghoven Elementary has invited the extended community to help emphasize the importance of good deeds with students. Firefighters and police officers will greet students as they arrive at school and launch into Kindness Week.
  • Some schools will engage in community service projects. For example, Rising Star Elementary students are collecting cereal boxes to create a long domino chain in the school hallway. When they are done collecting cereal, they will donate it to local food pantries. At Westridge Middle School, students will bring food items to help stock the school’s Cat’s Closet, which provides food to families and students in need.
  • Across the district, many classrooms will dedicate time to reading, discussing, and learning about the importance of kindness. In some buildings, student leaders have made videos setting examples for acts of kindness that can be carried out.

As a large district with nearly 50 schools spanning 14 cities, it is impossible to measure how many acts of kindness will be carried out during this week. Everyone who lives within the district boundaries is invited to follow the examples of students and staff, with the hope a ripple effect of kindness will spread, inspiring others and creating change for the better.