If you were to walk into the Indian Trails Elementary School on any given morning, you would be enveloped into a community of kindness. The Daily Nice shines on smartboards in every classroom throughout the Kindergarten through 4th grade school as teachers hold their morning meetings. A staff created mural adorns the hallway, encouraging all who pass by to be the “I” in NICE. A banner in the cafeteria holds the signatures of each student and staff member, which were proudly written as they made the Choose To Be Nice promise.
Kindness is the ultimate goal of Indian Trails, but they do not take a “one size fits all” approach in achieving that goal, School Counselor Cassady Hood explains. After the school experienced an influx of office referrals for unkind behavior, Hood and former Principal Emily Cross wanted to implement a kindness curriculum, but they wanted to do so in a way that would ensure that all students and staff were able to successfully work it into their daily schedule. And so, when the Choose To Be Nice program launched two years ago, it was decided that the teachers would take control of the curriculum. Instead of one blanket lesson for everybody, they would take a far more simple and individualized approach. The staff would be asked to check the Choose To Be Nice Facebook or Twitter accounts for the Daily Nice message each morning, and then focus on the snippet that fits best into their classroom on that particular day. If their students were struggling with telling the truth, they could use the daily message to promote honesty. If nice words weren’t being used, the message of the day could be adapted to encourage respectful language.
In this way, Choose To Be Nice is used to spark organic, real world conversations.
The students at Indian Trails were quick to adopt the Choose To Be Nice message, as the concept aligns perfectly with both their previous work as a “Leader In Me’ model school, and with their participation in the Missouri Comprehensive Counseling program. The familiar themes of respect and acceptance create a continuity that is both reassuring and comforting to the students. As Hood joked, the Choose To Be Nice program “makes things shinier and more appealing!” to the kids. Instead of just using words and stories when she visits classes twice a month, Hood introduces them to the adorable Choose To Be Nice Mice as they cheerfully promote the monthly theme.
How is Indian Trails getting the Choose To Be Nice message out to the community?
Indian Trails has truly embraced the use of technology this year. Though the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented in person assemblies from taking place, the message is being spread far and wide by the use of Instagram and Facebook! When teachers notice students embodying the Choose To Be Nice promise, they snap a picture and post it with a hashtag known to the Indian Trails community, so that families can share in the kindness being spread throughout the school.
And, perhaps the favorite memory of Indian Trails – the coffee cups.
For World Kindness Day last year, Indian Trails collaborated with a local coffee shop. Students decorated the sleeves that slip onto the coffee cups with happy messages of kindness as a surprise to their community. For a full day, anyone who stopped to grab their daily cup of coffee was surprised with a loving message from the students of Indian Trails. It has been months since that day, but members of the community treasure that boost of happiness that they received when they read those messages!
A little bit of kindness hugging every cup, and still going strong in the hearts of their community.