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.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

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"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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