How One California Teacher is Using The Great Kindness Challenge to Transform Her School

Nov 15, 2019 · 7 min read

Every November we celebrate World Kindness Day — an occasion that honors and encourages acts of kindness, whether big, small, random, or planned; ones that are shared with friends, family, a co-workers or a stranger. Kindness is all about making the world a better place.

And that better place often starts in our schools. It’s becoming increasingly evident that students must learn the fundamentals of being kind and caring citizens, who have respect, understanding, and empathy for others and themselves. These social and emotional learning skills — throughout which kindness, caring, compassion, and empathy transcend — are the key to shaping students for success in college, careers, and the future as a whole.

One of our favorite ways for schools to celebrate kindness is by participating in The Great Kindness Challenge (GKC) a free, powerful, week-long program that positively transforms school culture through kindness. This annual event aims to spread kindness in schools all over the world. Last year alone, 13 million students in 24 thousand schools across the globe participated, delivering over 650 million acts of kindness, ranging from smiling at strangers to planting trees.

This year’s event will take place from January 27 to 31, 2020. Schools that sign up for the challenge will receive a toolkit full of resources to make the week memorable — most important of which is a kindness checklist, which students work from to show acts of kindness throughout the designated week, and throughout their daily lives as well.

To learn more about the profound effect the GKC has on real schools across the world, we sat down with Kathleen Rosenthal, an elementary school teacher in Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District in Fairfield, California. Her school has been participating in the GKC for eight years, and she has witnessed first-hand its empowering, inspiring impact on students, teachers, and the community. Read more about her experience with the GKC below, check out for our webinar, Creating a Culture of Kindness in Your School, which took place on December 4th.

How did you get started with the GKC?

Our school makes the week an entire celebration — one that the kids say is the best week of the year. We host a kick-off rally really sets the tone for the week and gets the students ready to spread joy and kindness. Each grade performs a song; my second graders love to perform “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.” We form a welcome tunnel, and open it up to the whole community — parents, neighbors, everyone participates! We do a door decorating contest, and each morning a student reads an inspirational quote on the PA. Each day we host a different theme, such as Round Up the Kindness and Crazy for Kindness, and students get to dress up. You can just feel the positive energy coming from the campus and spreading into the community. It truly is extraordinarily powerful.

What impact has the GKC had on your students?

I think it is so smart that the GKC is held at the end of January. When students and teachers come back to school after the holidays and when the days are shorter, colder, and darker, students tend to act out a little more. Everyone becomes a little more irritable. The GKC gives us something to look forward to and get excited about. It helps reduce those winter-time blues, and leaves us on such a high note that we carry with us the remainder of the year.

What do students get the most excited about when it comes to the GKC?

What kind of long-term benefits has the GKC had on your students and staff?

One of the other markedly amazing things about the GKC is its impact on our staff. They, too, need a pick-me-up every once and awhile, and the GKC reminds them to be grateful and show kindness, not only to and for the kids, but to each other always. It helps strengthen relationships between all of us.

What is the one piece of advice you could give schools who are thinking of signing up for the GKC?

Kathleen Rosenthal has taught Grades 1–3 for 32 years with the Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District in Fairfield, California. Kathleen is also the mother to four amazing young men, and has been married to the love of her life for 32 happy years. In 2017, Kathleen and two of her sons traveled to Kenya with the Kids for Peace Team, where she experienced first-hand the powerful results of the GKC’s The Great Kind Coins Campaign. Kathleen is passionate about teaching children that kindness really does matter, and instilling in them that they have the power within themselves to be positive leaders. Kathleen will be leading her school, Rolling Hills Elementary, this January in their ninth straight year of participating in the GKC, also known as “The Happiest Week of the Year!”

Inspired Ideas

Resources, ideas, and stories for K-12 educators. We focus on learning science, educational equity, social and emotional learning, and evidence-based teaching strategies. Be sure to check out The Art of Teaching Project, our guest blogging platform for all educators.


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We apply the science of learning to create innovative educational solutions and content to improve outcomes from K-20 and beyond.

Inspired Ideas

Resources, ideas, and stories for K-12 educators. We focus on learning science, educational equity, social and emotional learning, and evidence-based teaching strategies. Be sure to check out The Art of Teaching Project, our guest blogging platform for all educators.

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