Lifestyle

Meet the Taranaki school students who start their day with compliments


After seeing the difference kind words can make in the classroom, Taranaki primary school students are sharing their positive message with their community.

Catherine Steenson teaches year 3, 4, and 5, students in room three at Marfell Community School, a class she has called ‘compliment city’ for three years.

She asks her students to come up with words of praise for each other, which they share every morning before they start lessons.

And has the positivity it made a difference? “100 per cent,” Steenson said.

Marfell Community School teacher Catherine Steenson encouraged her students to be more positive in 2019. And the positivity has done nothing but grow over the years.

VANESSA LAURIE/Stuff

Marfell Community School teacher Catherine Steenson encouraged her students to be more positive in 2019. And the positivity has done nothing but grow over the years.

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“They get to leave their worries at the gate. They are so happy to be here. It’s a place where they will be positive.”

The crusade for kindness all started when Steenson tried to encourage her 2019 students to be a little more positive.

Condrake Cassidy-Nuku, 9, etched "I like your smile” onto the concrete outside his school on Monday.

VANESSA LAURIE/Stuff

Condrake Cassidy-Nuku, 9, etched “I like your smile” onto the concrete outside his school on Monday.

Now, the current room 3 students are chalking compliments on the concrete outside – and even invited the mayor of New Plymouth to see them.

“We started it, and it grew – it got a little bit crazy,” Steenson, who has been working at the school since 2016, said. “It’s still growing.”

The ‘compliment city’ title came after she started a vine on one of her classroom’s walls, and students and visitors were asked to write kind words on a leaf or flower which would be added to the creation.

“You shine like a star" was the compliment Louie Niwa, 9, came up with himself.

VANESSA LAURIE/Stuff

“You shine like a star” was the compliment Louie Niwa, 9, came up with himself.

It then spread on to another wall.

“They all work on them,” Steenson said. “Now, they sit and read these compliments, and then they’re spreading them. And being lovely people.”

The kids will run into class in the morning and say: “I’ve got a new one”.

“They love it.”

Bella Watson, 7, even drew illustrations to go along with her compliment “you are better than ice cream".

VANESSA LAURIE/Stuff

Bella Watson, 7, even drew illustrations to go along with her compliment “you are better than ice cream”.

Steenson incorporates compliments into every day, and even has a unique way to get her students’ attention, rather than clapping.

“You are awesome,” she chants.

“I am awesome,” small, un-synced voices echo back.

In recent weeks, the students told Steenson they wanted to share what they had come up with.

Phoenix West, 9, put in the extra effort into colouring in the compliments – so much so that he ended up chalked, too.

VANESSA LAURIE/Stuff

Phoenix West, 9, put in the extra effort into colouring in the compliments – so much so that he ended up chalked, too.

“The children decided that we needed to spread our good words out on to the playground, courts, and then on to the footpath for the community to read and feel good about themselves,” Steenson said.

“We really wanted everybody to be complimented as they walked down the street.”

She said the children “were buzzing” afterwards.

On Monday, “you are better than ice cream”, “you shine like a star”, and “I like your smile” stood out among the chalked words.

The students say sharing such words starts a “compliment train”.

Amaya Vaillant, 8, says a compliment train “carries on, and carries on, around the world".

VANESSA LAURIE/Stuff

Amaya Vaillant, 8, says a compliment train “carries on, and carries on, around the world”.

“If you give someone a compliment, you make them happy, and it makes you happy,” Bella Watson, 7, said.

“It carries on, and carries on, around the world,” Amaya Vaillant, 8, added.

New Plymouth Mayor Neil Holdom has seen the students’ chalked compliments.

“They were proud of their work,” Holdom said.

In the “year of disruption” we have had, it was great to see the youngsters spreading kind messages – not only around the school, but into the community, he said.

“It was very impressive. There’s a really positive bunch of kids at Marfell.”



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