It’s not easy for kids today, trying to fit in at school and learning to stand up for themselves and each other, but a new trend is helping with that. Creative parents are painting supportive messages on bathroom stalls, hoping the boost will spread kindness and acceptance.
Brooke Fish led the recently installed effort at Wallace Elementary, and Hamilton Park Pacesetter Magnet parents also painted bathroom signs over the summer. Moss Haven has a project coming soon, and Lake Highlands Junior High and Lake Highlands High are both researching projects at their schools.
“It was a labor of love,” said Fish, parent of Liam, a Wallace fourth-grader, and Jude, who moved on to LHJH this year. “Fifth and sixth grades were very hard for a lot of our students. Those years just seem to be emotionally charged and difficult at times. We painted our fifth and sixth-grade hall bathrooms because I wanted future students to know that they are loved deeply. That we see them. They matter.”
Fish admits the Wallace moms and teachers who planned the project didn’t come up with the idea. They saw it — where else — on Facebook.
“Growing up in a social media dominated world can wreck a young tween. I don’t want that for any of our kids. They are so smart and so full of potential. We wanted our bathrooms to be bright with encouraging messages, instead of gloomy, stinky stalls.”
Fish, a designer and blogger, had the support of Wallace Principal Frank Patranella, who paid for supplies from his budget, and she had plenty of parents willing to help. But that doesn’t mean it was easy.
“We painted the doors with chalkboard paint, but it didn’t adhere,” Fish told me. “It was a disaster. We ended up having to remove all of it and start over. In the end, we decided to use chalkboard contact paper and chalkboard paint pens.”
Fish had high praise for the parents and students willing to paint bathrooms during summer months with no air conditioning and for Patranella, who was “hands off,” trusting the group to “do their thing.” Other schools interested in creating messages of kindness for kids, she said, would find the project “easy peasy,” and, more importantly, impactful.
“While I was there putting up the contact paper, a few students poked their heads in while they were working with Mr. P on a service project. They were super excited to see the end result. Everyone has loved it.”