Building a culture of kindness

SCHOOL SUCCESS: EDGEWOOD ACADEMY IN LA PUENTE, CALIF.

Things are changing at Edgewood Academy.

They’d done some anti-bullying work over the years on their K-8 campus, so bullying wasn’t a major problem before they began the Shred Hate program last year. Still, its students had their normal ups and downs.

But school counselor Veronica Montes can see that something is shifting.

Since beginning to implement Solutions Teams on campus, a culture of kindness is spreading.

“It’s changing the culture and students are very willing to help,” Montes said. “They feel very proud seeing whomever they’re helping is happier at school. They say, ‘we noticed so-and-so is sad. So, they start looking out for other students, not just the ones they were initially helping.” 

Though the Shred Hate program was adopted to help with incidents of conflict, Montes now sees students using the social skills they’ve learned on Solutions Teams to support fellow students who are new or might be having a hard time connecting with their peers.

“They’re more aware of who’s sad or who’s alone at recess or lunch,” Montes said. “They continue to do it even after the Solutions Team work is done.”

And they’re learning that small actions can go a long way.

“I had a group recently … the first week they were excited, and each said something they were going to do to help this particular student out. And they did everything they said they were going to do. But the second week it slipped a bit.”

When she checked in with the student, the results were clear.

“I use an emotion chart (1 = sad, 3 = meh, 5 = happy face) and the goal is to get to a 5. The first week she went up to a 4. But the second week — when they weren’t helping as much — she went back down to a 3. So, I had data to show this group that whatever they were doing the first week really did make a difference in this girl’s experience. 

“We discussed how even the things that you think are little can really make a difference to somebody … things like looking out at lunch to make sure she was with a friend or saying ‘hello’ or ‘good morning.’”

The younger students, in particular, really enjoy helping their peers. A group of first graders recently sought Montes out on the playground to give her updates about students they’ve continued to support after Solutions Teams have concluded, and other students they thought might be having a hard time.

“They’ll come to me and say, ‘we helped so-and-so on our own,’” Montes said. “They really enjoy being part of the team and just seeing how the person who was feeling lonely or feeling bullied is doing better. The program has helped our students to start spreading kindness.” 

Since Edgewood began the Shred Hate program, they’ve had no repeat offenders. And Montes hasn’t had to escalate an intervention to involve teachers or parents.  

“This is our second year with Shred Hate. But the more we use it, the more students are involved, the better the culture will continue to be,” Montes said. “More students looking out for one another and being kind, having more empathy. It definitely helps changes the culture.” 

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