A couple of years ago, Gerard (children’s names have been changed)used to get into quite a bit of trouble at his elementary school. The Grade 6 student at Jarvis Traditional Elementary School in North Delta admits that he was not the nicest kid, but he has now turned his bullying ways into kindness.
“Bullies don’t have friends, but because we focus on kindness, bullies become kind and get friends,” he explained, adding that he is much happier now that he has more friends.
Grade 7 student Amir echoed this sentiment. He, too, would have once been considered a bully, but now strives to give back to his school and fellow students.
“It feels good. Now I feel better about myself. I don’t see myself as a bully, but as being very helpful,” he said.
Both Gerard and Amir are members of Student Leadership at Jarvis Traditional Elementary.
The initiative, introduced by principal Ragini Kapil two years ago, strives to empower students by giving them meaningful roles in the school and focusing on the importance of kindness.
“We flip the idea to look at the bully as the one who needs help, rather than the victim,” said Kapil.
“We help the victim by addressing the bullying, but look to the bully to see what they need – what’s missing in their lives? Lots of times, they are feeling disenfranchised and leadership is a good way to make them feel valid and useful.”
“Even from last year it’s changed tremendously,” said Dana Scanlan, chair of the Parent Advisory Council at Jarvis.
When Scanlan’s daughter used to come home from school she would sometimes describe situations where children were mean to her. Now, her daughter only ever talks about good things that have happened at school, like a new kid she talked to or a group of children who invited her to play a game with them.
This new “vibe of kindness,” as Scanlan described it, can be felt all throughout the school.
“They’ve made it very clear that kindness is the way to treat people and you definitely feel it when you walk into the school,” she said.
Nicole Pavitt, a parent with an autistic son in the school, agrees with Scanlan.
“The kids around here seem to be very kind to each other,” she said, adding that all of the kids know her son’s name and make an effort to play with him and make him feel welcome.
As a parent with a special needs child, Pavitt was nervous and scared to send her child to school. The focus on kindness at Jarvis, however, has made a world of a difference for her son, with everyone at the school treating him so well.
“It’s been really positive being here,” she said.
Gerard agrees that the focus on kindness, which is spearheaded by the leadership students, has made a huge difference at the school.
“There used to be bullying, and now that student leadership has started there’s way less bullying. There’s like no bullying this year,” he said.
The leadership students at the school are in Grades 6 and 7. The kids are given a wide variety of roles including crossing guards, lunch monitors, office helpers, newsletter writers, environmental team (recycling and composting), and spirit team (organizing school spirit events). Despite the fact that student leadership is voluntary, all of the Grade 7 students and most of the Grade 6 kids are involved.
“We are bringing kindness to the forefront and it’s kind of infecting the whole school,” said principal Kapil.
Last school year, Jarvis focused on naming and labeling feelings and emotions in order to make students more aware of their own feelings and to understand and gauge how others are feeling.