An Irish school is ditching homework for a month, assigning 'acts of kindness' instead

Despite controversial-but-compelling evidence that homework takes time away from families with little to no appreciable benefit for students, kids continue to slog through hours of school work outside the time they spend in the classroom. And despite evidence that small acts of kindness can infect a community like a positive virus, far too many kids are on either the giving or receiving end of unkind bullying on a regular basis.

Perhaps that's why an elementary school in Ireland has decided to do something radical—ditch all homework for the month of December and assign kids "acts of kindness" instead.


RELATED: Viral stories of people helping strangers pay for groceries are inspiring other acts of kindness

In the weeks leading up to the holidays, kids at Gaelscoil Mhíchíl Uí Choileáin, Clonakilty have been given a kindness task for each weekday. Mondays they are asked to reach out to and communicate with an elderly person. Tuesdays they make a family member's life easier by taking over a chore or helping out without being asked. Wednesdays are for random acts of kindness of any kind, and Thursdays are for doing something kind for themselves to take care of their own mental and emotional well-being.

Students are asked to keep track of their kind deeds in a Kindness Diary. The school has also created a Kindness Bucket, where students can write down and deposit positive observations and affirmations to boost the self-esteem of their schoolmates. On Friday mornings, a random selection of the notes are read aloud for everyone to hear.

In addition, each class will cooperate in a collective act of kindness for the community based on the students' own brainstorming as a team. How lovely.

According to a Facebook post from the school, the students have been doing similar programs in December for three years running. Last year, the focus was on Gratitude, which resulted in "overwhelming success and positivity."

Vice Principal Íde Ní Mhuirí was quotes in the post:

"We are encouraging our pupils to think of the real spirit of Christmas, the spirit of kindness and giving.
With such an emphasis on the materialistic and commercial aspect of Christmas, we often tend to overlook what it's really all about…. Good will!

Unfortunately not everyone is in a position to be able to enjoy Christmas, some are lonely, some are sad, some might yearn for what they do not have and some might simply not enjoy the festivities. But there is nobody in this world who wouldn't benefit from an act of kindness, and the joy of kindness is that it costs nothing.

RELATED: As a teacher, I used to give tons of homework. Here's why I regret it.

What if schools everywhere did something like this, and not just during the holidays? What if we focused just as much on good character and citizenship as we do on test prep? What if each school took it upon themselves to say, "Being kind is more important than being smart," not just for a month, but always?

The most pressing issues our world faces are not so much due to a lack of intelligence or knowledge, but rather a lack of shared values that compel us to care about one another. Without a foundation of basic human decency and kindness, knowledge and skill-building will only lead to more problems, while focusing more energy on kindness can only help build a better world for all of us.

As the school noted on Facebook:

In this world, consumed by social media, where our young people are constantly experiencing pressure, there is no better way to show them the way forward in the world than by practicing kindness. We all know that helping others makes us feel good about ourselves…. What's not to love about that?!? That feel good factor we experience form helping others cannot be quantified. Our message to the children is very simple: they can be the reason somebody smiles today and they can definitely help make this world a better place for others and for themselves.

How wonderful. Less homework and more kindness all around, please and thank you.

Few child actors ever get to star in an award-winning film, much less win a prestigious award for their performance. That fact appeared to hit home for 8-year-old Alan Kim, as he broke down in tears accepting his Critics' Choice Award for Best Young Actor/Actress, making for one of the sweetest moments in awards show history.

Kim showed up to the awards (virtually, of course) decked out in a tuxedo, and his parents had even laid out a red carpet in their entryway to give him a taste of the real awards show experience. When his name was announced as the Critics' Choice winner for his role in the film "Minari," his reaction was priceless.

Grinning from ear to ear, Kim started off his acceptance speech by thanking "the critics who voted" and his family. But as soon as he started naming his family members, he burst into tears. "Oh my goodness, I'm crying," he said. Through sobs, he kept going with his list, naming members of the cast, the production company, and the crew that worked on the film.

"I hope I will be in other movies," he added. Then, the cutest—he pinched his own cheeks and asked, "Is this a dream? I hope it's not a dream."

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We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

This sweet story is brought to you by Sumo Citrus®. This oversized mandarin is celebrated for its incredible taste and distinct looks. Sumo Citrus is super-sweet, enormous, easy-to-peel, seedless, and juicy without the mess. Fans of the fruit are obsessive, stocking up from January to April when Sumo Citrus is in stores. To learn more, visit sumocitrus.com and @sumocitrus.

Social media spats usually end in ugly words or blocking people—unless you're Patton Oswalt.

Actor and comedian Patton Oswalt has made a name for himself off screen as a blunt yet caring, compassionate human. His raw openness after his wife's unexpected passing and his willingness to engage in conversations about depression and dadhood after her death has touched people's hearts and opened people's minds.

And once again on Twitter, Oswalt has proven that he is unquestionably one of the most kind-hearted dudes in Hollywood.

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Tory Burch

Courtesy of Tory Burch

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This March marks one year since the start of the pandemic… and it's been an incredibly difficult year: Over 500,000 people have died and hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs. But the pandemic's economic downturn has been disproportionately affecting women because they are more likely to work in hard-hit industries, such as hospitality or entertainment, and many of them have been forced to leave their jobs due to the lack of childcare.

But throughout all that hardship, women have, over and over again, found ways to help one another and solve problems.

"Around the world, women have stepped up and found ways to help where it is needed most," says Tory Burch, an entrepreneur who started her own business in 2004.

Burch knows a thing or two about empowering women: After seeing the many obstacles that women in business face — even before the pandemic — she created the Tory Burch Foundation in 2009 to empower women entrepreneurs.

And now, for International Women's Day, her company is launching a global campaign with Upworthy to celebrate the women around the world who give back and create real change in their communities.

"I hope the creativity and resilience of these women, and the amazing ways they have found to have real impact, will inspire and energize others as much as they have me," Burch says.

This year's Empowered Women certainly are inspiring:

Shalini SamtaniCourtesy of Shalini Samtani

Take, for example, Shalini Samtani. When her daughter was diagnosed with a rare immune disorder, she spent a lot of time in the hospital, which caused her to quickly realize that there wasn't a single company in the toy industry servicing the physical or emotional needs of the 3 million hospitalized children across America every year. She was determined to change that — so she created The Spread the Joy Foundation to deliver free play kits to pediatric patients all around the country.

Varsha YajmanCourtesy of Varsha Yajman

Varsha Yajman is another one of this year's nominees. She is just 18 years old, and yet she has been diligently fighting to build awareness and action for climate justice for the last seven years by leading school strikes, working as a paralegal with Equity Generations Lawyers, and speaking to CEOs from Siemen's and several big Australian banks at AGMs.

Caitlin MurphyCourtesy of Caitlin Murphy

Caitlin Murphy, meanwhile, stepped up in a big way during the pandemic by pivoting her business — Global Gateway Logistics — to secure and transport over 2 million masks to hospitals and senior care facilities across the country. She also created the Gateway for Good program, which purchased and donated 10,000 KN95 masks for local small businesses, charities, cancer patients and their families, immunocompromised, and churches in the area.

Simone GordonCourtesy of Simone Gordon

Simone Gordon, a domestic violence survivor and single mom, wanted to pay it forward after she received help getting essentials and tuition assistance — so she created the Instagram account @TheBlackFairyGodMotherOfficial and nonprofit to provide direct assistance to families in need. During the pandemic alone, they have raised over $50,000 for families and they have provided emergency assistance — in the form of groceries — for numerous women and families of color.

Victoria SanusiCourtesy of Victoria Sanusi

Victoria Sanusi started Black Gals Livin' with her friend Jas and the podcast has been an incredibly powerful way of destigmatizing mental health for numerous listeners. The podcast quickly surpassed a million listens, was featured on Michaela Coel's "I May Destroy You," won podcast of the year at the Brown Sugar Awards, and was named one of Elle Magazine's best podcasts of 2020.

And Upworthy and the Tory Burch are just getting started. They are still searching the globe for more extraordinary women who are making an impact in their communities.

Do you know one? If you do, nominate her now. If she's selected, she could receive $5,000 to give to a nonprofit of her choice through the Tory Burch Foundation. Submissions are being accepted on a rolling basis — and one Empowered woman will be selected each month starting in April.

Nominate her now at www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen.