Happy Valentine’s Day! And, what a wonderful time to show your love for others this week during Random Acts of Kindness Week! Have you shown or told someone how much you love and appreciate them? When my colleagues in the Center for Learning and Leadership and I entered the building on Monday, we were welcomed with multicolored words of praise and love and affirmation and good will and kindness. As the week progressed, every available space on the lobby glass windows filled up as our APS family continued to add to the display.
The randomness of the many colored words has brought a certain sense of beauty and calm to our lobby. You cannot help but start the day with joy in your heart!
This is only one way in which Atlanta Public Schools recognizes Random Acts of Kindness Week, which began on Monday and concludes on Sunday with Random Acts of Kindness Day. #RAKDAY #RAKAPS19
Not only the window display, but the entire week, has become tradition for APS. As I have written here many times, we have made social emotional learning or SEL efforts like these a district priority. In simplified terms, SEL is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.
As part of the SEL initiative, students from PreK through 12th grade are learning much needed skills such as active listening, empathy, conflict resolution, problem-solving steps, perspective taking and self-advocacy.
Random Acts of Kindness Week is a perfect time to showcase these skills and demonstrate ways in which we can improve our SEL skills.
Rose Prejean-Harris, director of social emotional learning at APS, and her team have put a great deal of effort into making this week special. Along with the Random Acts of Kindness for the week, they have created lesson plans designed to teach our students ways to be kind to each other all year long.
For the week, they have adapted the Five Love Languages into the Five APS Appreciation Languages to demonstrate how we can show kindness and appreciation across the district and to our students, teachers, staff and community. These languages include:
Words of Affirmation
Words mean a lot to a person with this love language. Verbal compliments don’t have to be complicated; the shortest and simplest words of affirmation can be the most effective. People who respond to words of affirmation love shout-outs and well worded inspirational quotes.
The walls in our CLL lobby are a perfect example of this love language. At Usher-Collier Heights Elementary, students took the “I Am” Challenge and wrote positive words about themselves and others. At Parkside, the students exchanged hearts filled with words and pictures about what they appreciated most about each other.
Acts of Service
With Acts of Service, the goal is to really show that “actions speak louder than words.” This appreciation language expresses itself by doing things that you know others would like. Making a copy for someone, picking their children up from lunch, giving a teacher a restroom break, are all acts of service. They require some thought, time, and effort. Actions out of obligation and with a negative tone are something else entirely.
At Barack and Michelle Obama Academy, teachers and staff created a “Kindness Parade” to really show how much they care about their students.
This appreciation language is all about undivided attention. This just means that you need to make sure to dedicate time for this person without all of the distractions, including those caused by our use of tech devices. Every time you cancel a date, postpone time together or aren’t present during your time together, it can be hurtful to this person. I personally enjoy quality time with our students whenever I visit our schools, such as these photos from Mary Lin and Fickett elementary schools show.
This appreciation language doesn’t necessarily mean an expensive or materialistic gesture. It just means that a meaningful or thoughtful gift makes them feel appreciated and loved. Something as simple as bringing them their favorite snack or classroom supplies they might be running low on can make an impact.
Our SEL team visited many APS schools to give principals, including Andrew Lockett of Benteen Elementary, golden apples in appreciation of the work they are doing to promote social emotional learning skills across our schools.
For some people, they best show appreciation when they are physically connected to others, physically active, and comfortable. People who respond to physical touch like hugs and high fives, and even a warm smile with eye contact can go a long way. I love how students at Toomer Elementary offered free handshakes and high fives this week!
With these efforts, I truly believe that APS is doing its part to ensure that love and kindness become a regular – and not random – part of our children’s lives. SEL can help us give our students the skills to create a kinder, braver world to come.
That is our Valentine to the APS community, to Atlanta and to the world.