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Kindness Challenge Whips Up Generosity Throughout Middle School

Mr.+Crisafi%27s+advisees+wrote+thank+you+notes+to+the+Maintenance+Department+for+all+they+do%2C+and+for+their+hard+work+in+cleaning+up+the+campus+after+Hurricane+Irma.
Mr. Crisafi's advisees wrote thank you notes to the Maintenance Department for all they do, and for their hard work in cleaning up the campus after Hurricane Irma.

Mr. Crisafi's advisees wrote thank you notes to the Maintenance Department for all they do, and for their hard work in cleaning up the campus after Hurricane Irma.

Mr. Crisafi

Mr. Crisafi

Mr. Crisafi's advisees wrote thank you notes to the Maintenance Department for all they do, and for their hard work in cleaning up the campus after Hurricane Irma.

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According to middle school English teacher Mr. Nathan Ginnetty, “Kindness is the one thing out of all of our character traits that builds the strongest community.”  Head of Middle School Mr. Charles Hagy must agree, as he signed The Benjamin School up for the Kindness Challenge this year. An initiative sponsored by several institutions and organizations, including Harvard University, Yale University, Facing History, InspirED, and Greater Good Science, the Kindness Challenge endeavors to stop bullying and encourage generosity and empathy among students. Two-hundred two other middle schools in the U.S. are participating, meaning the challenge encompasses more than 100,000 students nationwide.

Hagy believes that this challenge is necessary for schools, and he hopped on board in order to maintain a culture of kindness at TBS. “Statistically, middle schools all over the country struggle with bullying,” Hagy said. “Fifty percent of the bullying  [from] pre-k through [grade] 12 happens in grades six, seven, and eight, so it just stands to reason that we need to practice to counteract that.”

When it comes to specifics, Hagy has some clear goals. “I want to promote empathy on campus [and] to empower students to remember they can change their community, and kindness is a great way to start,” he said. “We have to remember [that] no act of kindness is too small.”

Advisories throughout each middle school grade level were charged with brainstorming one act of kindness to carry out for another individual or group.

Charlie Spungin
Ms. Latimer helps seventh grader Sarah Darby with her bandana in preparation for the advisory’s “doughnut bombing.”

Chinese teacher Ms. Kimberly Latimer and her advisory decided to be “donut ninjas.” TO disguise themselves, they rapped rags around their noses and mouths, dropped a dozen donuts off to Mr. Maddox’s and Mrs. Osters’ doors – gifts for those teachers’ advisories – knocked on the doors, and then ran.

The idea was the result of a lengthy brainstorming session with her advisees. “We sat as a group,” said Latimer, “and people gave suggestions, and we wrote them all down, and we voted on them, and that was the number one choice.”

Latimer also saw the value for her students in participating in the Kindness Challenge. “Doing something like that makes [the students] expect to do kindness at other times,” she said, “and it makes them expect to receive kindness, which kind of makes kindness a regular part of everyday.”

Seventh grader Jasper Wright, one of Latimer’s advisees, agreed with Latimer about the idea behind the Kindness Challenge. “It shows that we care about each other,” Wright said.

Some advisories used words as their vehicle for kindness. “My advisory chose to make homemade cards for a teacher, a coach, or someone else here at school that they wanted to personally thank for something kind that they had done for them,” said math teacher and seventh-grade advisor Mr.s Gina Thompson.

Like Latimer, Thompson agreed that participating in the Kindness Challenge benefits the students at TBS. “It forces middle school students to think outside of themselves,” she said. “Middle School students, by nature, think about themselves a lot, and [the Kindness Challenge] makes them think about others, and what [the students] could do to be better people.”

Other activities advisories carried out were making goody bags filled with candy for the Maintenance Department, baking cupcakes for Mrs. Lokitus in the Middle School Office, cleaning out the lost and found and returning those items to students, and putting together a basket of cheer for Head of School Mr. Robert Goldberg who is battling pancreatic cancer.

The late Mrs. Benjamin, co-founder of TBS, would have been very pleased with all of the thoughtful and generous actions carried out by the Middle School students via the Kindness Challenge. Her spirit and mantra of “Be kind, be kind, be kind,” is still very much alive and well among the students she so dearly loved.

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Kindness Challenge Whips Up Generosity Throughout Middle School