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Cultivating a Culture of Kindness

Posted on: Tue, November 22, 2016 at 3:03

Cultivating a Culture of Kindness

Cultivating a Culture of Kindness

Last winter and spring, Nantucket Lighthouse School hosted three workshops with Cape Cod Children's Place Executive Director Cindy Horgan. During one of Cindy's visits, she talked with parents and Lighthouse middle school students about anti-bullying and pro-social behavior, particularly the importance of creating a culture of kindness within our schools and homes. While unkind behavior can surface in any environment, instances are far less common where kindness and caring are the expectation and intentional efforts are made to model and guide that expectation.

I have a unique vantage point from which to view Nantucket Lighthouse School and the meaningful ways in which it aims to cultivate and sustain a culture of kindness. My perspective is informed by my daily observations in classrooms and by my interactions with students, faculty, staff and parents. Nantucket Lighthouse School's work at creating a culture of kindness is shaped, among other things, by its philosophy, its social curriculum, its traditions and, most importantly, by the meaningful ways in which members of the Lighthouse community model kindness and caring.

Our Philosophy

Nantucket Lighthouse School's philosophy is the basis from which the school operates. It is fundamental to our decision-making, our beliefs about children and their growth and development and our attempts at shaping a culture of kindness within the community.

At the Nantucket Lighthouse School, we seek to nurture in each child the power to create a personally meaningful life; one that is a continual process of discovery and joy. We regard childhood as a magical and determining moment in life, when curiosity and wonder illuminate experience.

We are committed to the education of the whole child, concerning ourselves equally with ethical and intellectual development. We believe in the human urge to grow and to learn, and we respect the individual nature and rhythm of each child's path. We seek to preserve the vital connections in a child's thinking, feeling and willing, thus allowing a world of vibrant thought to unfold.

We consider a child's relationship to self, others and the world to be fundamental to his emotional maturation. Thus, we are committed to cultivating those qualities of a child's humanity-compassion, kindness, love, and consideration- that inspire an inner joy, and a feeling of responsibility toward the world.

Our Social Curriculum

At Nantucket Lighthouse School, we keep rules very simple, and easy for children to grasp. The Golden Rule is the guiding principle from which all other rules are established. It invites children, and adults, to treat others at they would like to be treated. When young children first enter Nantucket Lighthouse School, they will, at some point, experience conflict with their peers, and we actively teach them how to navigate these situations. With calm and patience, Small School teachers model and reserve space for conflict resolution and problem solving. After many years of practice and continued guidance from adults, older children eventually navigate these tough spots on their own. While gentle and nurturing in our approach, we also hold children highly accountable for their words and deeds. Building on the Golden Rule, older children are introduced to a familiar Lighthouse mantra: Is it Kind? Is it Helpful? Is it Necessary? When it is not, we bring children together to discuss what is not working and how we can find a solution or offer some type of amends.


Peaceful conflict resolution in a supportive environment offers children the opportunity to experience the discomfort of wrong-doing, learn to accept responsibility for it, and at the same time, reap the reward that comes from finding a solution. In addition to the inherent benefit of helping children develop important, lifelong social skills, it also helps to create an environment where children feel safe, supported and capable of solving the problems they encounter, and the ones they create.

Our Traditions

Nantucket Lighthouse School is a school steeped in rich tradition. Many of these traditions reflect the school's commitment to kindness and caring for the people and world around us. These traditions include All School Meeting, Yuletide Crafting, Grandparents and Special Friends Day, September 11 Wishes for Peace, Holiday Gift Making, Weekly Field Trips, Mother's Day Cafe, Project Night, Carnival, Weekly Tea Party, Head, Heart and Hand Projects and many more. Such traditions connect our community and offer moments to joyfully celebrate our work and play together.
 
One of my favorite Lighthouse traditions is daily Thankfulness, a quiet, reflective moment during each school day when children and adults gather to offer something for which they are grateful. Over the years, I have been moved to tears, fits of laughter and everything in between. In addition to daily Thankfulness, Small Schoolers offer the following during weekly tea parties: For every cup and plateful, let us be truly grateful. Thank you, Mother Earth! Daily thankfulness provides Lighthouse students with an opportunity to reflect on what matters to them and to offer their gratitude for it. While this time of year naturally evokes feelings of gratitude, our daily practice is aimed at helping children make it a part of their everyday lives.

Finding Gratitude

For the past twenty-five years, I have worked in a variety schools with a variety of philosophies, and I am grateful for each and every one of those professional opportunities. As I celebrate my sixth year at Nantucket Lighthouse School, I do so feeling honored and privileged to be part of a community that places such importance not only on students' academic knowledge but also on the social and emotional capacities that will serve them throughout their lives.

During this season of thanks, I offer my gratitude for our co-founders, Lizbet Carroll Fuller and Elizabeth Edwards Sundell, for an inspired founding vision that undoubtedly engenders a culture of kindness and caring, our teachers and administrative staff who uphold that vision every day, our parents who trust and support our efforts, our students who bravely take on the uncomfortable and difficult to become kinder, more thoughtful and engaged citizens, and for our Board of Trustees who volunteer their time and talents to help Nantucket Lighthouse School live out its mission and philosophy.

In keeping with our tradition of daily Thankfulness:

Dear Earth, thank you for the breath of fresh air that is Nantucket Lighthouse School, a school that honors children and childhood and one that works hard every day to cultivate a culture of kindness and caring, and thank you for friends.

With Gratitude,

Emily Miller
Head of School
Nantucket Lighthouse School