NEW PARIS — National Trail Local School district recently accepted a Kindness Challenge from National Trail Miami Valley Career Technology Center (MVCTC) FFA Chapter. The entire school found different ways to encourage students and spread goodwill before the holiday season.
The challenge began at FFA National Convention, when two National Trail Chapter Members were handed “kindness cards.” From there, it grew to be a district wide phenomena, with elementary, middle, and high school all participating.
Chapter Member Mykenzie Smith explained, “Two of our girls got a kindness card from someone and they thought it was a good idea. That night, [our advisors] had us each write 150 cards and we had to hand them out the next day in an hour time period. They had to say stuff that was inspirational.
“When we came back to school, [Mr. and Mrs. Kennel] decided they wanted to do it for everybody in the school. We made up cards for all the elementary, middle, high school, and staff and handed them out. They called it Kindness — or Niceness — November. We wanted to spread kindness throughout the schools.”
Chapter Member Allison Whitesell was one of the girls who received a “kindness card” at National Convention.
“Reading the card made our day so much better. We told our teachers about it and thought it would be nice for other people to receive a card like that too. After we did that, I had people add me on Snapchat and tell me how it made their days so much better and that was really nice to see,” she said. “Sometimes people aren’t that positive and we need a little more kindness in our school.”
NT FFA Chapter Members decided they liked the Kindness Challenge so much at convention, they thought it would be a great activity for students at National Trail to participate in. Additionally, members felt the more people that could get involved in the challenge would allow the challenge to reach more people at National Trail with kindness activities.
The elementary, middle, and high school were all challenged to have their students spread kindness to their classmates in different ways. Shana Nissenbaum’s third grade class all received notes that told them they were “cool” or to “keep at it.”
“It made me smile completely. I knew it was from no one I knew, but I thought it was awesome,” she said.
Nissenbaum had her class compliment their classmates. Over Thanksgiving break, she compiled the compliments and made them into the posters for kids to take home.
“They loved seeing what others thought of them, smiling at their unexpected character traits,” she said.
She also had her class write down one kind thing they could do for a stranger over break. The class randomly picked one act out of a hat and over break they had the responsibility of completing that act of kindness in the community.
“I love building that culture [of kindness] in my own classroom. I try to model it all the time and have them see what it looks like to be kind. This was another good way to show kids what it looks like to be kind to others,” Nissenbaum said. “I want my students to be kind. We recently talked about paying it forward, so just keeping it moving and paying it forward. How do we keep that spinning around in the world?
“The thing that I most loved was seeing the different answers. They couldn’t see what each other wrote, there was no copying as an option. They also didn’t put their names on it, so it was anonymous. It was amazing to see the different things kids thought about each other. To see them have all these aspects of themselves that aren’t normally acknowledged was great.
“It just showed them that people see you in all these different ways. It felt like the boost of confidence from that was really special. I’m hoping that is something they will hang onto and internalize.”
Third Grade Student Maya Prather loved her poster she received so much she hung it at her house. Her classmates told her she was good at soccer, which meant a lot to her since she loves to play.
“I never thought that I was good at soccer, but people said that I was. It made me feel happy,” she said. “It’s not really hard to come up with good things to say about [my classmates], because there isn’t anything that is bad about them.”
Third Grade Student Jerzey Hawkins received a kindness card that called her “cool.”
“It made me feel good about myself inside,” she said. “I want [my classmates] to feel the same way I felt [when I received a kindness card].”
When filling out complements about her classmates, Hawkins found it challenging to say something about the kids she didn’t know as well. However, doing so helped her to learn about her classmates.
Third Grade Student Cain Bond felt “really good” when he read his kindness card, which called him awesome. On his poster, one of his classmates told him how good he was at football, which is his favorite sport.
“I really liked reading that, I felt really good,” he said. “I hang around with almost everyone in the class, so I found it easy to say kind things about everyone. I know a bunch of stuff about them. Some of them are funny, some of them are nice.”
Shelby Misfeldt’s first grade class passed out “kindness” ornaments to each kindergartner.
“We received the Kindness Cards from the FFA and saw that we were challenged to come up with a kindness challenge of our own. My class voted and they wanted to make ornaments for a grade level. Kindergarten won that vote. Monday we made some of the ornaments and we finished up yesterday, along with laminating them and tying ribbons on them,” Misfeldt said.
“We made enough for each kindergartner to have an ornament. The ornaments were a mix of reindeer, Santas, penguins, elves, and snowmen. Students had a blast making each and every one of them. My first graders were very proud of their work and loved passing them out to each kindergarten class.
“Even though some may not have looked perfect, I had many students say, ‘I tried my best, and it is the thought that counts!’ First graders being selfless during the holiday season!”
Daniel Clark’s Spanish Two class held open the doors, welcoming students and staff, and played music one morning per week through Christmas break.
Cindy Herrmann’s Kindergarten class made a 12 Days of Kindness Santa.
“Santa’s beard has 12 ideas of kind acts to do at home or school. Example, smile at someone,” Herrmann said.
There is also a kindness board outside of the National Trail Ag Room. This board is filled with post-it-notes, where students can take kind messages to make themselves feel better. They are also encouraged to leave a post-it-note on the board, so the school will never run out of kindness.
FFA Chapter Member Abbigail Whitesell added, “This motivates people to do good things, spread it around, and make other people happy. I think it really helps.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH