“Be Kind” is more than a catch phrase at Beck Junior High. It’s a hard-driven culture shift, with the Beck student body sitting behind the wheel. They call the movement “BecKind,” and make no mistake, it’s a full-speed action verb.
KATY MAGAZINE | March 2018 By Sara G. Stephens
Things got off to a rocky start this year at Beck Junior High School in Katy. According to Cheyenne Weber, an 8th grader at the school, there was a cloud of bullying and drama at the beginning of the year, but the cloud had its proverbial silver lining. “I think it opened the teachers’ eyes to the realization that, ‘These kids are going through stuff, and we need to do something to help,’” Weber says.
A Challenge to the Students
Beck Principal Carra Daniels tasked the Beck Student Advisory Council with an important challenge, recalls Brooklyn Matthews, a member of the Council. “She said, ‘We need to move kindness and make it stand out more,’ Matthews recalls. The Council met to consider the challenge, gathering all grade levels in the gym. Miss Texas participated in the meeting with a meaningful talk about kindness. The dialogue that day revealed to the Council a key truth that played into their solution: “We all have kindness, and we need to show it without being shy about it,” Matthews says.
The group came up with the idea for #BecKind, a school wide movement that would encourage, facilitate, and acknowledge a tangible presence of kindness.
In January, the school hosted a #BecKind pep rally to inaugurate the movement. Shirts were designed in a bright neon green, the words “#BecKind” emblazoned on the front and on the back a message that fuels the movement at its core: “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. BecKind. Always.”
“It is something very near to my heart due to the obvious times we are living in,” Daniels explains. “We all have the choice to be kind, and kindness is free and can transform a school culture if we all become responsible for operating this way.”
Daniels’s goal for #BecKind is to infuse it into the school culture at Beck and ultimately “change some hearts.”
A Change is Coming It would be easy to dismiss the #BecKind movement as a trendy logo with a feel-good slogan—empty words with no meat that will be forgotten by the school’s next pep rally. Evidence would suggest otherwise. #BecKind is happening at the school in a very real way, as Daniels noted with exuberance in her February 8 Facebook post: “Proud principal moment today…I was in the hall at class change and noticed about 10 boys kneeling on the ground frantically trying to do something. I walked up and saw the most precious sight! A student with special needs had broken his backpack, and his things were EVERYWHERE! These boys were not all in this kid’s grade level, nor did many of them know him. They were trying to help him to get everything in his backpack! Now, this kid A LOT of stuff in his backpack, and they were struggling to get it all back in! They had no idea I was standing there, mind you. They problem solved how all of this was going to happen, including coming to the office if they were tardy to class to get help! There were several teachers there also, and we were tearing up! The BecKind Movement is spreading and spreading fast!”
Athena Bazzi, a 6th grade student at Beck and member of the Beck Student Advisory Council, says what struck her most about this act of kindness was its sincerity. “Some kids only act kind in front of adults. But these kids didn’t know an adult was watching, which made it even more special.”
A "Sticky" Situation To further facilitate kindness throughout the school, the #BecKind founders tapped a profound insight into youth psychology: Students can be embarrassed to show kindness.
“Some kids don’t want to others to know they’re being kind,” Matthews says.
When that reality hit, movement organizers implemented a #BecKind Sticky Notes program, allowing and encouraging students to post anonymous Sticky Notes with words of kindness and encouragement throughout the campus.
The notes can be posted in common areas and feature upbeat messages that anyone can find uplifting, or they can be posted to an individual’s locker for a more personal experience. Bazzi thinks the power of these notes can be enormous. “Maybe that person on whose locker you posted a Sticky Note is going through a tough time and just needs a little motivation. Your Sticky Note and your words of encouragement could make all the difference for that person.”
Students are permitted to take time during their daily Advisory period to walk the halls and post Sticky Notes. The program is expected to continue indefinitely at the school.
The Sticky Notes not only help more jaded students be kind, but also are helping already kind students be even kinder. Beck PTA President Anna Marsh notes that her 8th grade daughter is kind by nature and has always written “secret ninja-style encouraging letters, accompanied with a cool piece of her own artwork,” but that experiencing this school-wide movement has encouraged her to continue on this path of kindness.Weber acknowledges that Sticky Notes are not entirely new, adding that before #BecKind, she would occasionally see a nice note posted here and there. “You’d say, ‘Awww, that’s cute. That made my day.’ But now you see these notes all over school, and it’s a beautiful thing to see people come together in this way. I love seeing those sticky notes every day. It doesn’t matter who you’re talking to or about. There’s always kindness in our hearts to let someone know, ‘You’re beautiful” or “Your smile brightens my day.’”
The New “In” Thing
For as much as Weber loves the Sticky Notes program—how its anonymity encourages greater participation—she expresses an even deeper appreciation for students who aren’t embarrassed to wear their kindness on their sleeves for all to see, like the kids who helped repack their fellow classmate’s spilled backpack.
“I’m glad to know there are people in this school who are not scared to show we are all here to help each other,” Weber says.
It’s this belief in the inherent goodness of people that convinces these Beck students and administration that there is hope for the #BecKind movement to catch on and make a difference at Beck and beyond. They acknowledge that there will always be a percentage of the school population that take the movement as a joke.
“That percentage tends to the kind of more popular group,” Weber explains. “They don’t get the whole bullying thing. They don’t have to worry about being self-conscious. They have their own struggles—everyone has struggles—but they’re good at keeping it in. They express it by bringing other people down.”
All three Beck students remain optimistic, however, that young people will someday realize that popularity and kindness can walk hand in hand. “When you’re kind, everyone wants to be your friend,” Weber notes. “When you’re positive, other people are happier. It’s really like a domino effect.
“Some people are lucky to have that one friend who comes to school every day all peppy and excited,” Weber continues. “You see them, and you talk to them, and you walk away with this feeling like, ‘I’m going to have a great day!’ And you go through the day with that positivity, and you help other people have a better day. Where does she think it will all end? “I think that being kind is going to be the new cool.”