If a global pandemic over the past year has revealed anything, it is this: People need kindness, they crave kindness, and they DESERVE kindness.
While kindness does not generate the kind of headlines that politics, tragedy, and heartbreak garner, I think we all want to see more stories about people helping others and actually feel safe and comforted whenever we experience others displaying friendliness, love, and generosity.
This week, we celebrate Random Acts of Kindness Week, when everyone is encouraged to show at least small acts of kindness. As superintendent and a former school counselor, I am thrilled that the week has become tradition for APS, where social emotional learning has become not only a district priority but a model for other school districts.
To put it simply, social emotional learning or SEL describes the ways in 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 our district 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.
Even amid the pandemic, Random Acts of Kindness Week offers an opportune moment to showcase social emotional learning. The school year has hardly been normal or traditional – thus amplifying the need for these skills.
Although many of us remain virtual, Rose Prejean-Harris, director of social emotional learning at APS, and her team have created themed activities to teach all of us ways to be kind to each other all year long.
I would like to pay special note to the event for Wednesday, Feb. 17, in which we focus on Kindness to Self. On that day, we are featuring Mirror Face: A Book on Self Love, a children’s picture book written by Jordan Gillman and Michael Tyler and illustrated by Lisa Fields. Mirror Face teaches children to love themselves independently of the opinion of others and how to build their inner voice of confidence through a simple self-affirmation: “I love you, Mirror Face.”
The basic concept: Self-acceptance and self-love play a critical role not only in a child’s daily life but in our society as a whole. Indeed, it is hard to love others if we haven’t learned to love ourselves.
The authors of the children’s book Mirror Face have partnered with Atlanta Public Schools, donating about 30,000 copies of their book to K-5 students across our district. They are using the partnership to launch a global social media movement they are calling #MirrorFaceChallenge.
This initiative culminates with a Facebook Live event at noon on that day, and I invite everyone to share in this wonderful act of kindness and other activities throughout the week!