A diverse group of people standing, with their backs facing the viewer

Behind Your Back

A student or staff member stands with their back to a small group of three to five people, each of whom take turns sharing their appreciation of that person.

Level: PreK/Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary, Middle School, High School, College, Adult
Duration: ≤ 15 minutes
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Planning For It

When You Might Use This Practice

  • At the beginning of the school year to build positive relationships between staff members or students
  • After small groups of students or staff members have finished a project
  • When the morale of staff and/or students needs a boost
  • To build a sense of trust and belonging among students or staff


Time Required

  • ≤ 15 minutes



  • All Levels



  • None


Learning Objectives

  • Students and school staff will:
    • Strengthen their ability to see the best in others
    • Practice fostering positive relationships


Additional Supports


Character Strengths

  • Kindness
  • Gratitude
  • Respect


SEL Competencies

  • Social Awareness
  • Relationship Skills


Mindfulness Components

  • Non-judgment

How To Do It

Reflection Before the Practice

  • With a friend or family member, take a few moments to share what you appreciate about the other person.
  • How did hearing kind things about yourself make you feel? How do you think your students and/or staff would respond to this exercise?


Note: This practice is best done in small groups who know each other and/or who have been working together on a project.

  • Divide students or staff members into small groups of no more than five.
  • One member of each group stands with their back to the rest of the group.
  • Each group member takes a turn saying what they appreciate about that person. In other words, they speak kindly “behind the back” of the person.
  • After each group member has had a chance to share, it is the next group member’s turn to stand with their back to the group.
  • Continue until all group members have had a turn.



  • Group members may also say one thing they wish for the person.



  • If there is additional time, in the same small groups or as a whole group, debrief how this experience made people feel. Did anything surprise people? Did it shift how they felt about being part of the group and/or classroom/school? If they were to do this exercise again, what might they do differently next time?

Reflection After the Practice

  • Do you notice a positive shift in the relationships among students or staff? Are people more open with each other? Are they kinder? Is there a stronger sense of community and trust?

The Research Behind It

Evidence That It Works

In a study of predominantly white female undergraduates, researchers found that a greater appreciation of other people served as a buffer against the psychological and physical impact of stress.


Why Does It Matter?

Encouraging students and staff to be kind to each other has a ripple effect that can spread throughout the school, improving school relationships among all stakeholders, leading to a more positive school climate.

In addition, kindness has been found to benefit students, elementary through university, by increasing their well-being and peer acceptance, both of which lead to greater academic achievement and better relationships with peers and teachers. A kind school climate has also been linked to an increase in students’ sense of belonging.

“Kindness is giving hope to those who think they’re all alone in this world.”
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