February’s Guest Perspective is by: School and Community Supports for Children and Youth Branch, Alberta Education
Did you make a new year’s resolution? It’s still early in 2015, so let’s be optimistic and assume you are still on track with your plan. Common resolutions include losing weight, exercising more, getting out of debt, and helping others. Did you include one of these? The good news is that research indicates if you made a formal resolution, you are ten times more likely to make improvements than someone who didn’t make a resolution and that if you share your resolution with a friend you are 33% more successful than those who didn’t.
Let’s consider the resolution: “helping others.” With Random Acts of Kindness Week coming, we have a wonderful opportunity to make or renew our resolution to help others. It started in a California restaurant in 1982 when Anne Herbert scrawled “practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty” on a placemat. The Random Acts of Kindness movement inspires schools, communities and organizations across the world to choose to show kindness to others with no expectation of reward. And it appears that the more kindness is paid forward, the healthier and safer communities become.
Many schools in Alberta embrace the opportunity to practice random acts of kindness. This focus builds on the government’s recently released Alberta’s Plan for Promoting Healthy Relationships and Preventing Bullying and Alberta Education’s commitment to ensuring our schools are welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environments. This webpage has information and resources that help enable schools to implement strategies to support healthy relationships. With a whole school approach, students are in environments where showing kindness is valued and encouraged. Research confirms that people who perform acts of kindness feel positive emotions and are happier. It also shows that happy people become happier by counting their acts of kindness for one week, as well as the fact they become kinder and more grateful through this subjective counting. This is the very thing that can promote and support positive mental health for participants, including children and young people.
Children and youth who are mentally healthy are more likely to build healthy relationships, value diversity, and demonstrate respect, empathy, and compassion. Alberta Education’s Mental Health Matters webpage promotes positive mental health with a series of tools and resources, including posters and activity guides.
Promoting healthy relationships and showing kindness builds a positive school culture which can help prevent bullying. It was a random act of kindness at Central Kings Rural High School in Nova Scotia when two Grade 12 students organized the wearing of pink shirts. It began when a Grade 9 student, on his first day at the school, wore a pink polo shirt. Some of his peers publicly mocked him for wearing pink and threatened to beat him up. David Shepherd and Travis Price decided to take action. They went to a discount store and bought 50 pink shirts. They emailed classmates to invite them to join the action. The next day, not only did dozens of students wear the pink shirts David and Travis brought, but hundreds of students showed up wearing their own pink clothes. Since then, schools, communities, and organizations across Canada have participated in Pink Shirt Day by encouraging people to wear pink as both a proactive message of support for those who have experienced bullying and as a demonstration of a commitment to refrain from bullying behaviours.
Let’s join together in supporting both Random Acts of Kindness Week (February 9-15, 2015) and Pink Shirt Day (February 25, 2015). We can make a difference in 2015 – for ourselves, our schools, our communities, and the world.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
– Margaret Mead
This article will be appearing in our February 2015 News Bulletin, which will be published later this week. Click here to read our past bulletins!