SPRING LAKE TWP. — A Spring Lake school starts each week with an intentional focus and reminder about kindness.
At the beginning of the school year, Jeffers Elementary School staff and students took the pledge to be a “be nice.” school. They’ve continued their efforts by starting every week with “Mindful Monday,” which is a day focused on being intentional about spreading kindness and the awareness about being kind.
“We expect our students to be kind and good to one another when they come to school, but we also know that we cannot take for granted that they know how to do that,” Principal Shelley Peets said. “It is a skill we must teach them, along with the core academics. By setting aside a day where we have a kindness challenge, we keep that message at the forefront of our minds and we teach that to our students every opportunity we can.”
Jeffers became a “be nice.” school during the 2018-19 school year. “Be nice.” is a mental health and behavioral awareness and education program through the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan.
On Mondays, Jeffers staff and students are encouraged to wear a shirt with a kindness message or their “be nice.” shirt.
Students are also given challenges about ways they can spread kindness. The challenge stems from a word in “nice” (notice, invite, challenge, empower). This week’s challenge is for students to invite themselves to do the right thing, even when nobody is looking.
One task earlier this year was to thank the cafeteria workers for making their lunch. Peets said it was great being in the cafeteria and hearing the students thank everyone.
Second-grader Veronica Fogel and her classmates explained that “being nice” means inviting other students to play at recess, sit together at lunch, make new friends and notice how others are feeling.
Peets said the students have embraced the message and lessons.
“The ‘be nice.’ program has brought empathy and compassion as a priority,” the principal said, “and we hope to make it a part of our everyday interactions with one another.”
In the fall, music teacher Rebecca Kaufman created a video about “be nice.” as part of a lip-dub challenge by the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan. Peets said it was fun to create the video because it involved many children and parents.