Rock, paper, kindness: Students build character in multiple ways

By Richard Greene | Published Wednesday, March 20, 2019
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Rock solid character

ROCK-SOLID CHARACTER – Bridgeport Intermediate Principal Mallory Marr shows off the rock presented to teachers for going above and beyond to help others. Messenger photo by Richard Greene

A mystery unfolded at Bridgeport Intermediate Monday morning as students and faculty returned after spring break.

Some time during the student holiday, the Sticky Note Bandit returned to the campus to spread a bulletin board full of positive messages: “Be Kind. You’re Doing Great. Smile. You Rock.”

“I started the quote of the day about six weeks ago,” said Bridgeport Intermediate Principal Mallory Marr. “I had kids’ papers piling up where they were writing their own quotes. I had to do something, and outside my door kids would write their own quotes. [The Sticky Note Bandit] saw that, and next thing I know, her quotes started showing up around the building. [They] came up over the break and did a bulletin board, which is awesome.”

The Sticky Note Bandit’s work is the latest offshoot of the entire campus embracing the “Kindness Rocks” character development campaign.

Marr, in her first year on the campus, has seen countless examples of the school’s 487 students finding new ways to spread kindness – from carrying lunch trays, helping custodians clean up after lunch to writing positive messages to each other.

The campaign started with students painting rocks that are now around the school’s marquee with messages. Art teacher Meghan German had heard of a similar program and started painting messages of kindness.

Kindness rocks

KINDNESS ROCKS – Bridgeport Intermediate students painted rocks that surround the school’s marquee. Messenger photo by Richard Greene

“At the first month of school, all the students painted rocks in my class, and then we put them out there. We talked about how each rock represented a pledge to be kind to each other,” German said.

“The kids have really gone with it. We’ve had themes before, but I don’t think I’ve seen a change in kids’ behavior like I have this year.”

The rocks got the campaign rolling for the students and staff. Teachers can earn a painted rock for carrying out special acts of kindness as models for the students. Some staff members were recognized for decorating a coworker’s room after her mother died before the school year started.

“You have to go above and beyond to get that,” Marr explained.

Students get their own rock with positive messages after being nominated by teachers.

“We talk to them with the counselor about why they got nominated. The best part is most of the time they don’t know why they are nominated,” Marr said. “They’re just good kids, and they have good hearts.”

With the popularity of students getting their own kindness rocks came the Principal Proud Award. Students set a goal and once they reach it, a form is put on display and they get to ring the bell. When 99 students reach a goal, which could be reading a book, being kind to others or a myriad of things, one child is chosen to be the principal for a day.

“They run the place. They get their own walkie talkie,” Marr said. “They have fun with it.”

On the building’s ceiling, construction paper loops are tied together as the campus’ kindness links. Students write nice things about their peers, and they are read over the announcements before being added to the chain.

“Our goal was 500, one per kid,” Marr said. “We were already over 2,000 at Christmas.”

Seeing the culture that’s developed throughout the year at the campus, Marr expects it to pay dividends with academic results.

“It starts with loving the kids and showing them we care about them and modeling helping one another,” Marr said. “By taking this approach and focusing on the culture of our building, the academics are coming. We’re excited to see where we end up on accountability.”

She also expects students to take these character lessons with them for the rest of their lives.

“The more we talk about being kind versus always right, the better,” Marr said. “This is probably the best age group to start with.”

Now, it’s time to figure out who the Sticky Note Bandit is.

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