BY GABE LICHT
DELANO, MN For years, mothers have been telling their children, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
However, many people have found ways to “say something nice” without being nice at all.
There’s the passive-aggressive version of nice.
There’s the notion of being nice only to get something in return.
There’s the practice of making fun of something by saying something “nice” about it, made popular by social media and at least one comedy podcast.
And, of course, there’s the absence of being nice altogether.
That’s what caught Brad Pappas’ attention.
“This came about three years ago when I saw a four-letter word in a headline,” Pappas said regarding the origin of “Say Something Nice: The Movement” that he is seeking to fund through a Kickstarter campaign “I said, ‘That’s insane. Where have we gone that that kind of language is in the paper?’”
Pappas wanted to encourage others to genuinely say something nice, but he wasn’t sure of the best way to go about it.
“The idea was floating around with no structure to it,” Pappas said.
That changed after he read to Charlene Warne’s third-grade class at Delano Elementary School.
Students sent him thank-you notes that they refer to as happy grams.
Pappas spoke with Warne and learned that happy-grams were just part of how her students showed kindness to others. For example, “Thoughtful Thursdays” begin with students saying nice things as they toss a ball to their classmates.
Positivity is not exclusive to Warne’s classroom, as Delano Elementary School administration and staff emphasize different character themes, such as kindness, with their students each month.
“What if they could start the spark with other teachers and districts?” Pappas asked.
He believes the answer is “Say Something Nice: The Movement.”
“This will be a focused area for teachers to share and take ideas,” Pappas said.
Initially, he is planning to start with a Facebook page or group for teachers, but he sees the idea going beyond the walls of classrooms.
“The idea is if we can get classrooms to sign up and say, ‘Yes, I want to participate,’ then general public, companies, associations, all the groups that fund all the other stuff that happens around here . . . they participate in programs like this, also,” Pappas said. “ . . . What’s the ultimate goal? Simply, it’s to get ‘say something nice’ in the lexicon of the conversation again, and give it some examples that are hard examples that people can look at and say, ‘Look what these kids did.’”
When Warne and DES Principal Darren Schuler learned of the idea, the response was predictable based on their track record.
“When Brad approached us initially about the idea, the thing that resonated with me and some of our staff . . . (is) I think it fits really nicely into some of the things we’re currently doing here,” Schuler said.
DES features “responsive classrooms” as a way of building a classroom community. Warne’s “Thoughtful Thursdays” are part of the responsive classroom curriculum, which features a greeting such as the ball toss, sharing, news and notes, and an activity, such as writing happy-grams.
While the curriculum is part of every classroom, it looks different in each one, Schuler said.
He shared one of the benefits.
“So often, kids can’t think beyond themselves,” Schuler said. “Some adults have the same issue. She (Warne) makes them think outside of themselves.”
Warne said she was honored when Pappas approached her with the “Say Something Nice” idea.
“He wanted to pick my brain on where this could go,” she said. “This is a great idea.”
Many times, teachers turn to social media to share ideas with each other. “Say Something Nice” would act as a sort of clearinghouse for all that information.
“I’m intrigued to have another resource,” Warne said.
Pappas is working to raise the funds needed to maintain that resource via Kickstarter at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/saysomethingnice/say-something-nice-the-movement?ref=nav_search&result=project&term=say%20something%20nice%20the%20movement.
Teachers from classrooms may pledge a dollar to receive charms for their students and to be included in a contact list for “Say Something Nice.” However, Pappas estimates it will cost $50 per classroom to make the movement viable.
That’s where others come in. They are required to pledge more, but can also receive rewards ranging from a thank-you email and “that warm feeling inside that you joined the movement” to special edition “Say Something Nice” socks and the opportunity to have input on how to make the movement better.
If the $10,000 goal is met by Sunday, March 25, those pledges will become contributions to the cause.
And, if that happens, the students and staff can be assured that they inspired something larger than themselves.
“You guys are the poster child,” Pappas said.