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Learning courage, compassion and connection with #KindnessCapes

  • Post category:2021 / reflection
  • Reading time:7 mins read

This is a little blog I wrote in 2017 (with a few little edits) after getting many requests to explain our #KindnessCapes experiences and how they worked in the classroom.

Learning Courage, Compassion and Connection with #KindnessCapes
I am crazy about kindness. Sharing it, spreading it, promoting it, talking about it, practicing it, blogging about it teaching it, quoting it, buying tshirts about it… crazy. about. kindness.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not talking superficial kindness. Nor am I claiming that the ONLY thing we need in the world is kindness. I am not talking about the kind that rewards those whose beliefs are detrimental to our society and the future of our learners. Not surface level kindness that rewards the “compliant” and maintains the status quo. I am talking about the kind of kindness that allows me to step out of my world to make someone else’s better. I am talking about the kindness that thrives on gratitude, compassion and love.

I wanted to not only read cutesy little books about about being kind or only practice kindness within the fours walls of our classroom (our number one rule in the class is “Be Kind”) or watch videos about examples of kindness (even though I always love me a good ugly cry kindness story on Ellen…). I wanted to LIVE kindness in our community. I wanted people to think about kindness and associate it with our kindergarten learners and be hopeful that a bunch of 4, 5 and 6 year olds could change the world. I wanted my learners to know that there are some lessons that aren’t in the curriculum but that will be important to them for the rest of their lives. I wanted them to learn that there are some things in our world that are not kind and that when they are witness to these things, they can speak up and make a difference. My passion for kindness along with a very enthusiastic second grader in my class who had a real drive to change the world she was growing up in had us looking for ways we could practice kindness in a real and authentic way. From that place, Kindness Capes (#kindnesscapes) was born.

Why Capes?
Kindness is a focus in our classroom from Day 1 of Kindergarten. Books, videos, storytelling, sharing at our morning meeting, talking about “3 happy things” we saw or experienced at recess… they all help us to define what kindness is and where we see it in our world. Conversations around kindness also allows us to have hard conversations that address how not everyone is treated with kindness and not everyone deserves to be. Racism, ableism, sexism have all been discussed around the concept of kindness. We then extend our learning about kindness into our community with our first #KindnessCapes walk of the year.

We talk about how kindness takes courage. It takes courage to help a stranger. It takes courage to speak up when we know something is wrong. It takes courage to give something away that we really want to keep for ourselves. It takes courage to be kind when no one else is. On our very first kindness mission ever, a little girl raised her hand and said “it sounds like we will be superheroes! We should probably wear capes. Because superheroes are the most courageous people of all in a five year old’s mind, the capes become a visual representation that THEY will be Kindness Superheroes for the day.

They LOVE the capes. And although I am sure that I could get them to go on kindness missions without the capes, the capes bring their enthusiasm and excitement to a whole new level! When they see them hanging on their lockers or in our classroom as they come in first thing in the morning and KNOW that they will be changing the world that day? Those reactions? Those squeals? Those smiles? Those are the ones I live for as a teacher.

(Side note: Since I always get asked, these capes were purchased at Dollar Tree for $1.25 each. BEST $1.25 per student I have ever spent!)

Where do the Kindness Capes ideas come from?
The very first walk of the year is always the easiest one to come up with. That’s because it is the same one I start with every year. It all came from one student’s response years ago when we were talking about the courage it takes to give something away to someone that you really want to keep for yourself (more on that part of the story here: šŸ˜‰ ) When I asked students what they thought the HARDEST thing for me to give away was, with no hesitation, one student called out “THE COFFEE!”. They know me so well…

So, each year for our very first #KindnessCapes walk we head over to our local coffee shop and purchase coffee to deliver to someone else. I believe in leading by example. And I believe that them seeing ME give coffee (my very favourite thing in the world in their mind!) away to a stranger?! There is no better way to show them that keeping something to yourself instead of sharing it with someone else is much more rewarding.

Where do the other ideas come from? That’s harder to write about since I don’t really know! We get inspiration all over the place! Generally, the WHAT and the WHY of the walks look similar. Spreading kindness with notes handwritten or coloured by the kids with some sort of “treat” for the people we are sharing with (art we have made, kind notes, chocolate, plants, flowers, balloons…) But the inspiration about WHO we will see changes all the time. It could be from a newspaper article, a story from our class, a random walk where we interact with people we meet along the way, thanking people who contribute to our community… it all depends on the day. I like to think that whoever we meet along the way needs us in their life for some reason that day… And sometimes we get confirmation that proves this to be true…

Kindness Matters. It really, really does.
Kindness matters. It does. But we need to be mindful and careful about how the word kindness is used and what it means to us.

We have been blessed to receive amazing support from our community when it comes to #KindnessCapes. Check out this article about a recent #KindnessCapes walk we did: 
AAANNNDDD… if you REALLY want to see how emotional I get when I talk about #KindnessCapes watch this short video (we are at about the 14 minute mark) that recently featured our class… Mrs. Mac’s Kindergarten #KindnessCapes

Do we ever have people reject our gifts/notes/smiles/random acts of kindness? We sure do. But it is important to remember that these become incredible learning experiences for students as well. 
One of the most important parts of our #KindnessCapes missions is the reflection we do at the end. We always designate time at the end to reflect through words, art, or stories about how we felt during the walk, what we observed and how we think other people feel about our mission. The reflection helps us to focus on the true meaning behind what we do and how kindness makes us feel. A Kindergarten version of the definition of “helper’s high” plays an important part in our reflection process. This sidewalk chalk reflection after our walk to deliver balloons could be one of my favourite ones yet…

Please be sure to check out the #KindnessCapes hashtag for more kindness inspired projects