On any given day, a lonely child quietly waiting for the end of recess might go unnoticed on a busy playground.
But on one particular day at The Baker School, in Brockton, MA, one quiet child did not spend the whole time alone. On this day, another boy, just 6, noticed his classmate by himself and invited him to play. The first-grader was putting into action a message called “The Daily Nice” he had heard during the school’s morning announcements.
This particular Daily Nice, chosen by a fifth-grader named Tristan, suggested that students who notice another student looking lonely on the playground reach out to that person. Tristan and his classmates are at the core of the efforts by Principal Valerie Brower to expand the impact of the Choose To Be Nice School Program this year.
SEL Program in Action
Choose To Be Nice offers schools a comprehensive package of school-wide activities and a classroom curriculum to teach children about improving their interactions with others. It covers nine core values, one each month, to help children become aware of the choices available in how they respond to others and the influence they have in their community. The values are respect, kindness, acceptance, teamwork, honesty, responsibility, friendship, patience, and courage.
“At my previous school, Choose To Be Nice took flight and was having a dramatic impact on the school and the community,” Brower said. “When I came here, no one had heard of the movement.” She introduced the program immediately at her new school “because how can a school survive without it?” she explained.
The program was well-received. With the help of the health teacher and an extremely supportive PTO, the school held rallies at which every staff member and student made the Choose To Be Nice Promise and signed a large banner. The banner was then hung in the hallway to serve as a constant reminder of the values the school community had embraced. The principal spoke to all grades and parents were invited to also make the promise and sign the banner at conferences. The school sold CTBN gear and the energy and excitement were high, just as Brower had hoped.
“The Daily Nice became a part of our morning announcements. We introduced the values of the month, and children who were “caught” exhibiting the values were given a ticket to enter into the CTBN box for a chance to win a coveted CTBN bracelet each Friday. CTBN was full steam ahead… for a while.”
Brower hadn’t anticipated the day-to-day challenges as an administrator she would face in a larger school with several hundred more students and triple the staff.
“With the increase in my responsibilities, my ability to lead the CTBN movement with fidelity wavered,” she explained. “The health teacher was diligently teaching the monthly values and lessons, but the Daily Nice and the Friday CTBN bracelets faded away. This turn of events truly bothered me, I hadn’t given the movement the dedication and attention it needed to truly take root as I had in my last school.”
This year, as with any new school year, Brower saw a chance for a fresh start. Her reenergized efforts led her to reflect on what she could do differently this year. Knowing that Choose To Be Nice could “literally transform a school community,” she decided to build a dedicated team to invest in rolling out and monitoring CTBN in the building in a new way. That dedicated team would include students.
Getting Students Involved
Brower selected a small fifth-grade classroom and enlisted the students to work with her, “to be my kids on the ground” to bring CTBN to life again. She told them the story of Choose To Be Nice founder Dina Creiger and why she started the movement. Brower shared stories and newspaper articles about ways that students just like them were making a difference in other schools. They talked about paying it forward and how it feels when someone does something nice for you and how it makes you want to do something nice for someone else.
“The children were truly inspired and were adamant that they were up for the challenge,” Brower said.
The fifth-grade classroom was designated as CTBN Headquarters. The students made a space in their room for the CTBN materials and worked together to create a CTBN bulletin board in the hallway. Things took off from there. As a class, they read through the CTBN website and began brainstorming schoolwide activities.
- They helped to organize a rally to reintroduce CTBN, the promise, and the banner
- Working with the health teacher, the students met with every classroom in the school, spoke about the CTBN promise and the importance of a promise. They engaged the classes in conversations about being nice and how being nice is contagious. And they had everyone sign the banner.
- Each month, the class goes to the school library and checks out the books that go with the CTBN lessons for the value of that month. During one of their weekly reading centers, they practice reading the books, review the CTBN discussion questions provided and select an activity that they will teach to a kindergarten or first-grade class.
- When the students are in the hallways, they carry CTBN tickets that reflect the value of the month. When they “catch” a student exhibiting any of the CTBN values they hand them a ticket. The student writes their name on the ticket and each Friday, the class chooses a ticket from that week and that lucky child reports to CTBN Headquarters for a CTBN bracelet.
In addition to these activities, each day, a student reads The Daily Nice over the loudspeaker. They select it, write it out and practice reading it just like Tristan did on that particular morning.
“We certainly had faith that the students would start to see a return on their “nice” investments, but we didn’t realize how immediate it would be,” Brower said.
A Culture of Kindness
Two days after Tristan’s Daily Nice reading, Brower was walking through a first-grade classroom with her assistant principal who stopped to acknowledge and commend the six-year-old who had invited a peer to play.
“The boy beamed at the compliment and I was filled with pride. This 6-year-old had not only listened to the Daily Nice but immediately put it into action,” she said. “When Tristan and his teacher made a surprise visit to the boy’s classroom to present him with the CTBN bracelet, I could see that the cycle of nice had truly begun.”
“The commitment by this grade 5 class and their teacher to assist me in ensuring that the entire school community is on board with CTBN has been nothing short of amazing,” Brower said. “The excitement is growing and CTBN is becoming a part of our daily lives.”
Interested in becoming a Choose To Be Nice school?