Ward Traditional Academy Teacher Creating Culture of Kindness in Classroom
“Small acts of kindness can make a big difference.”
That is the message that Dasha McKinney, first-year teacher of fifth-graders at Ward Traditional Academy, wants to emphasize to her class this year. Through a 20-day Kindness Challenge, McKinney has seen her students grow and become more aware of the impact of kind acts. McKinney shares more about her first-year of teaching and this Kindness Challenge in the Q & A interview below.
1) Tell us about the Kindness Challenge. How did you come up with it and how often do you do it?
The Kindness Challenge all started when a friend and I wanted to implement more kind acts into our day and show our students that even the smallest acts can go a long way. The challenge itself is 20 days long and gives both the students and the teacher a challenge to complete each day. I try to talk about it with my students in the morning in order to give them time to complete the challenge throughout the day. Some days, I am even able to incorporate the challenge into my lesson plans! I complete my act of kindness alongside them each day to show them that even adults can display kindness that can positively impact others and myself. We are about half way through the challenge and may continue there after.
2) Why did you want to work a kindness challenge into your classroom routine?
Growing up, I personally witnessed many different acts of kindness from others that made me feel loved and supported. I wanted to show my students that you could make anyone’s day by just showing a little kindness especially when it comes unexpectedly! We are learning to make being kind a daily routine!
3) Has your class responded positively? Do you feel that it's helping them think more about being kind?
My students love the Kindness Challenge! There are some challenges that they get more excited about than others, however, they enjoy completing them each day. I have noticed that the days I hold off revealing the challenge, I have students asking me if and when we will complete that day’s act. I have students that were absent the day before asking about the previous day’s challenge and if they can still complete it. These particular challenges are just examples to show the students what they can do to make a difference. I believe that setting up a challenge for them daily has let them think about their own acts of kindness they can complete independently outside of the classroom.
As a class, we are considering extending the Kindness Challenge until the end of the school year. I have a small box on my desk where students can leave me private notes that I read at the end of each day in case they have a concern, feedback, or would just like to tell me something. I have had several notes left in the box with different acts of kindness that can be implemented in the classroom once we are done with this particular challenge. In March, we will be completing a field trip with Ben’s Bells where the students will participate in making Kindness Coins that they can give away to others while learning intentional kindness skills to use in their own lives.
4) As a first-year TD3 teacher, can you share with us what you have enjoyed so far this year at Ward?
As a first- year teacher, I have enjoyed being part of the Ward family. I student taught at Ward last year, and the transition from student teaching was effortless thanks to the staff members. They are extremely welcoming and continuously make an effort to help me with anything I need from supporting me with students, having an open door when I need to talk to someone, and always having an abundance of chocolate and coffee on hand! I was able to even loop with my students from last year and this has made the classroom feel like home!