In honor of World Kindness Day (November 13), I encourage you — no matter how old you are or where you live — to do an act of kindness for someone today. One kind word can change a person’s day … or even save their life.
As a health and physical education teacher, I tell my students: Be a vessel of empowerment and support to those around you. You never know what someone could be going through or what they have experienced in their life.
And, remember that your words have POWER. I recently had a sixth-grade student enthusiastically state to me, “Ms. Huff, you know that our words can change the world, right?”
I nodded my head and said, “You are absolutely right.”
The Power of health. moves. minds.
At the start of the 2019-20 school year, Maxson Middle School and Hubbard Middle School in Plainfield, NJ, began implementing SHAPE America’s health. moves. minds. program in our health and physical education classes, becoming the first schools in New Jersey to pilot this new program.
We quickly learned about the positive influence this program was going to bring our community, the state and schools across the country.
With an emphasis on social and emotional learning, the health. moves. minds. program teaches kindness, empowerment, empathy, respect, respectful listening, mindfulness, diversity, equity, inclusion, and teamwork!
In our two middle schools, we have already begun to see fruits produced from the seeds planted through health. moves. minds. — and this is just the start.
Our students have really bought into this program and want to do more to make our community and world a kinder, healthier place. On their own, they have even started taking the initiative to spread kindness and empowerment throughout our middle schools!
It has been such a beautiful sight to see and it gives me such joy as an educator to watch our students encourage one another and the adults in the building. This is what our world needs more of, and that is exactly what health. moves. minds. is all about!
Recently in our physical education class at Maxson Middle School, students were passing a note. When we asked why they were passing a note in class, they didn’t try to hide it but instead said, “Here, you can read it!”
As we started to read the note, we were amazed by the empowering and kind words inside:
“You are so beautiful.”
“If no one has told you that you are loved today, just know that you are loved by me.”
“You have a purpose to your life. Smile for me today.”
Once folded up, the note said, “Read & pass it on to another girl!”
We were so taken back by the creativity and kindness displayed by our students that we passed the note right back, asked them to continue what they were doing, and said we would love to be a part of it!
The next day, the girls came in and passed us a note. We were so honored and touched by the words written in their empowerment note that we started crying. Our students then all gave us a group hug and said, “This note isn’t supposed to make you cry! It’s supposed to make you happy!”
We told them not to worry, that these were tears of joy.
Since that day in September, they have been writing empowerment notes almost every day, spreading kindness and love throughout our school. This has created a more positive climate, culture and learning environment for everyone.
I was so encouraged by what the students began on their own that I wanted to join in and write what was on my heart to empower them too!
The girls even made it a point to bring in an empowerment note to one of our male physical education teachers to read and “pass it on to another boy” because they said that boys need to know that they are loved too!
Watching the impact of these messages has been a pleasure to witness.
At Hubbard Middle School students have been writing kind messages and placing them in a kindness box. The side of the box says “Take what you need.”
Steph Huff, who happens to be my sister, is a health and physical education teacher at Hubbard. She recently shared this story about the powerful impact the kindness box has had in her school:
“A student was walking in the hallway and looked upset. I asked him if he wanted a kind message and he said yes. He read the message, looked at my class and said, ‘Thank you, this made my day.’
My students’ faces lit up as they saw firsthand how a simple act of kindness can change the outcome of someone’s day.
Later that day, another student gave a kind note to a classmate that she thought seemed upset. He thanked her, and she responded by saying ‘put this in the back of your student ID so anytime you are upset you can look at the note and remember that you are cared for.’
Since then I have seen many students with notes of kindness on the back of their student ID.”
Serving One Another in a Purposeful Way
Maxson Middle School and Hubbard Middle School have now implemented Empowerment Groups, stemming from health. moves. minds. and the eagerness of our students to make a change in our world for the better!
They have told us they have so many ways to brighten up our school(s) with kindness, love and empowerment, as well as ideas to spread love throughout our community and the world.
Students and teachers have already started by bringing in old shoes to support the wonderful initiatives set forth by NJAHPERD (New Jersey Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance). All collected shoes will be sent out to developing nations to serve those in need. Our students have even taken it to the next level, asking if they can donate clothes as well.
The giving back to others, kindness and empathy that our students have shown is incredible. We are so proud that they want to do more to serve those around us and those who are in need. They are even using social media to promote #healthmovesminds and #NJAHPERD.
When students want to post about what they are doing in school, you know this program and these initiatives have touched their hearts in such a purposeful way!
When the students at Hubbard Middle School saw #healthmovesminds being promoted on Snapchat by their friends at Maxson, they asked if they could post their work as well.
The health. moves. minds. program has produced a ripple effect through our middle schools and the Plainfield community, changing the social media culture in a positive way.
When young people want to display work that they have done in school on their social media pages — instead of the typical selfies and mirror pics — that’s a lifestyle change.
Our students are proud of what they have accomplished and proud of the skills they are learning. And now, they want to advocate for health. moves. minds. for the benefit of other students and people throughout the world.
Take Action on World Kindness Day
If you are an educator, I highly suggest you sign up for the health. moves. minds. program — and what better day to do so than World Kindness Day!
You don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to better the lives of young people in your school and beyond! SHAPE America provides you with free lessons, materials and resources, which can be used throughout your school. It’s not limited to just health and PE!
Educators have shared that implementing the health. moves. minds. activities and skills has created better rapport between teachers and students, which supports a positive learning environment. What more could we ask for as educators than to see our students take these skills and implement them into their daily lives in and out of school?! This is just the beginning — the best is yet to come!
If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me at any time at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love for you to stay updated with our Plainfield Public School District’s journey with health. moves. minds. Check out our Maxson and Hubbard team pages!
- World Kindness Day Resources
- About the health. moves. minds. Program
- health. moves. minds. Ideas and Resources
Michelle Huff is a health and physical educator at Maxson Middle School in Plainfield, NJ, as well as the varsity softball coach at Plainfield High School. A passionate HPE advocate, Huff is on the State Standards Review Team for Health and Physical Education and is an active member of NJAHPERD and SHAPE America. Follow her on Twitter @mshuff_maxsonpe.