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Creating Conspiracies of Kindness

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conspiracies of kindness

A simple truth – kids will tend to do those things for which they are rewarded – both extrinsically and intrinsically . . . and another truth – schools reward individual achievement.  Most schools award individual achievements. Kids mostly work on individual school assignments and get individual graded for those assignments.  In essence, school is a culture that promotes the rise and success of the individual.  Sure, group work and collaboration does occur but when it comes down to assessment and grading, it is most often on the individual level.

Another truth – giving to others, for most of us, is wired into our DNA.  What I mean by this is that many of us receive extreme states of joy and satisfaction by giving or even viewing acts of kindness.  I’ve tried to figure out the whys of this but have fail to identify the why.  In thinking about personal need fulfillment and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I cannot figure out which human needs are being fulfilled.  All I can say is that it just feels really, really good. Watch the following videos for some evidence of this:

The following video is what sparked this post.  The reactions and joys of the givers are just as priceless as the receiver:

Sadly, some kids (some adults) just never have experienced the act of giving and kindness nor the rewards it brings.  As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, school environments and often society-at-large do not promote nor reward, in a significant way, acts of kindness.  So for some kids, experiencing being part of a conspiracy of kindness may act as visceral, innately rewarding experience and become the impetus of future acts.  One of the most powerful statements of the Michigan Middle School Football Team’s Life Changing Play came from one of the middle school kids:

I kind of went from being somebody who mostly cared about myself and my friends to caring about everyone and trying to make everyone’s day and everyone’s life.

I propose that educators and administrators introduce the idea of creating conspiracies of kindness initiated and carried out by the students themselves.  These wouldn’t be for a school assignment or grade.  They would just be promoted as a way to give back to their communities, that doing good for others . . . just feels good.  The ultimate goal would be that the students become involved in and develop a culture that promotes conspiracies of kindness just for the innate and intrinsic rewards; and this would carry over into a lifetime of increased giving, of kindness.

Resources and Stories to Help Motivate Students to Create Conspiracies of Kindness:

Photo Credit:

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

April 2, 2014 at 8:36 pm

4 Responses

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  1. Hello Dr. Jackie Gerstien & Friends. Let me share the thoughts students have to say about this topic.

    We asked students to focus on two things from the Life Changing Play video:

    Clarify. What do you believe is the meaning of Steve Hartman’s words as quoted above?

    How has this important gesture, action, changed Keith and his team?

    You are welcome to share this resource and your thoughts.

    – 34Kiwis

    34 Kiwis, Inc.

    April 2, 2014 at 10:57 pm

    • Thanks for sharing – love the reflection questions – this is definitely a movement I’d like to see grow and go viral.

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      April 3, 2014 at 12:23 am

  2. Great Post Jackie! My school is embarking on a similar initiative with our students… to find ways to express kindness in a direct and concrete way to make the biggest impact.

    Also – a question you mentioned in your blog about student work being predominantly done by individuals vs. group work and that assessments/grading is individually focused. I have been doing more and more collaborative PBL and the challenge I face is how to assess/grade group work so that I can see how each student contributed and see how their work helps to meet their individualized goals. Thank God Google Docs has an Add-In for track changes, which is helping, but it doesn’t capture the collaborative piece nor does it fully capture the student’s progress or work. Any suggestions or ideas? Thanks!


    April 7, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    • Thanks – exciting about your school!

      As for collaborative work, I believe that grading rubrics should include very clear criteria for group contributions . . . and if you are evaluating individual student progress, then isn’t the focus still on the individual? IMHO. I liken it to work teams in work settings. The team is evaluated based on its progress towards a specified outcome.

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      April 7, 2014 at 4:16 pm

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