Promoting Kindness

BY MARK L. ADLER/School Administrator, August 2017

Mark and Joni Adler at York Middle School, York, Neb., in May, one of the dozens of presentations they have made to students and educators.
Research studies consistently show that strong relationships are at least as important for our personal health as avoiding smoking or obesity.

Random acts of kindness are a hot topic in science and psychology today. Study after study suggest that compassionate giving and benevolence are not only great for the recipient but the giver as well. Quality relationships in our schools lead to positive school climates and the improved health and well-being of our students and staff. The good news is we can cultivate all of this with very little cost through having a focus to #bekind.

Over the past 18 months, my wife Joni and I have had a front-row seat, watching and encouraging acts of kindness in Nebraska’s Ralston Public Schools, where I serve as superintendent, and our greater community. As we travel across the state to share the story about our son Reid, we continually are amazed by the unique and widespread acts of kindness and giving we see. Often the costs associated with being kind are minimal, but the dividends are plentiful and lasting.

Cultivating Acts
Within Ralston Public Schools, each campus has multiple activities during the year that are deliberate and well-planned, encouraging students to spread kindness to everyone they meet. Many times, this kindness is cultivated through acts of service, pay-it-forward projects or small actions such as sharing positive comments with others or just a smile in the hallway.

One significant project is the development and implementation of the Ralston High School Food Pantry. Each week, the food pantry helps 75 students with food to take home for the weekend and more than 150 families monthly across the community. The food pantry is student-led and supported by hundreds of volunteers and community donations.

As school administrators, we recognize that encouraging acts of kindness can lead to unique and incredible results. One elementary school in Ralston started an annual Kindness Award to recognize students from each grade who are selected in a vote by their peers. Nearly all sports teams and student clubs at Ralston High School have service days.

Finally, and maybe most significantly, Ralston High School students met with students in South Sioux City, a much more diverse community, last spring. They brainstormed ideas for kindness challenges between schools, and when the schools’ basketball teams faced each other last winter, both teams’ student sections showed incredible sportsmanship, cheering for each other’s teams.

Healthier Climate
Supporting kindness and service in our school communities is critical for a positive school climate and a healthier organization. The young people and educators under our care have creative minds and caring hearts that can and will change our schools positively.

As school leaders, we need to get behind them and do our part to pay it forward and #bekind every day!

Mark Adler is superintendent of the Ralston Public Schools in Ralston, Neb. E-mail: Twitter: @drmadler