This article appeared in the August 23, 2022 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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A new school year brings a fresh start – and a call for kindness

Elias Funez/The Union/AP
Students make their way to the first classes of the 2022-2023 school year in Grass Valley, California, Aug. 16.
Ali Martin
California Bureau Writer

Millions of American kids are back in school this month, including my own – a seventh grader and a high school junior. 

For me, this new school year comes with a sense of relief. At our annual orientation, Superintendent Evan Anwyl made a few welcome announcements: Children are back in class with only a few COVID-19-related protocols. Masks are optional. Parents are allowed on campus this year, which means we can attend performances and help out in classrooms. I missed that last year. 

But the most touching moment was when Mr. Anwyl revealed this year’s theme: kindness. Simple, actionable kindness. 

Mr. Anwyl chose kindness for a few reasons: On a broad scale, he says that we’re coming out of pandemic schooling, still reckoning with a hostile political environment, and seeing an escalation of meanness on social media and in person.  

A widely reported CDC study released earlier this year shows that sadness, hopelessness, and plans for suicide are all up among students.

At our school, in particular, Mr. Anwyl explained via email, there has been “an uptick in kids simply being quicker to anger and, more importantly, expressing very valid emotions, such as anger, disgust, shame, etc., in unhealthy ways.”  

Kindness, he said, helps students find “constructive ways of handling such emotions.” 

He closed with something that gave me pause: “We don’t have bad kids or bad families. I want to make that perfectly clear. We have both kids and families that need more encouragement and education to gain and use more positive tools of interaction and being.”

Releasing someone from a predetermined end is the kindest act I can imagine.

This article appeared in the August 23, 2022 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 08/23 edition
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