Charting Course to Becoming the Kindest School

I recently talked to students about a ‘big, hairy, audacious goal’ that I have. A BHAG — pronounced bee-hag according to leadership writer and coach Jim Collins — is a strategic goal considered by some as impossible to achieve. 

My BHAG is for Brisbane Adventist College to become the ‘kindest school’ in Brisbane, if not the world. I don't think it's impossible to achieve.

And it won't be achieved in a fake marketing kind of way — but for real.

As the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence comes around again this Friday, March 15, we've preempted it. Last year, we launched the #choosekind campaign. This year we’ve thrown down the challenge to our students to find new and innovative ways of permeating ‘kindness’ throughout our college. 

If we want kindness to become part of who we are, the next question is: How do we make it our culture — something every person experiences, every day of the school year?

The Principal’s $1,000 Challenge

The Principal’s $1,000 Challenge is one way of driving change from the ground up. We presented it to students in early February, proving the school’s serious intention and commitment.

The Principal’s $1,000 Challenge requires students to come up with a concept, develop a proposal, and apply for school funding for their project. They are then assigned a mentor who will help them bring their proposition to fruition.

Several projects are already well underway. A podcast produced by Year 7 students will broadcast conversations with key stakeholders around the topic. Several senior students are planning a large, kindness-themed mural as a visible reminder of our 'kindest school' culture. One Year 5 class recently took me on a tour of their 'kindest' classroom. 

I want to put our money where our mouth is and truly make this the kindest school. By all signs so far, I may just blow up and smash this budget —which, by the way, I am very happy to do.

Why is it so hard to be cool and kind?

One of the biggest barriers to kindness in schools, particularly in the preadolescent and early adolescent years, is grasping the concept of how to be 'cool' as well as ‘kind’. 

So much in our popular culture tells kids that they have to be tough to be cool. To be popular, they have to be masters of the cool comment, the breezy attitude that says ‘nothing gets to me’, the perfect image.

Kindness requires students to show vulnerability. 

In an environment where you have to be cool all the time, it takes courage to be kind. It’s hard to stand up for kindness when friends think it’s funny to make fun of someone, or when your peer group wants to exclude someone who’s different in some way. It’s uncool to ruin the fun or make a scene.

However, if we’re willing to walk past unkindness without doing something about it, then we’re willing to accept it as our culture.

By challenging these attitudes — by practicing kindness on a daily basis — it becomes our way of being. It becomes part of who we are; overcoming the limitations of a tough, cool image and becoming an indelible part of each and every character that we nurture in this environment.

A grassroots movement

Students are the ones who will decide what the ‘kindest school’ really looks and feels like, and put it into action. For this to succeed, it must be a grassroots movement.

Signature days such as our national day against bullying (‘Bullying — No Way!’ Day) play an important role in raising awareness about issues. But national days come and go. The way we approach this requires a sustained effort and is key to changing this for real.