Social & Emotional Learning (SEL)

Teaching Kindness: More Than a Random Act

February 8, 2013
Photo credit: indiewench via flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

It's been a long time since I was in elementary school. But I can remember it like it was yesterday.

I wasn't the cutest, skinniest or best-dressed girl. I wasn't even a popular girl, but I had an advantage; I could sing like "nobody's business," and my teachers loved that about me. As a result, I think I was spared the bullying that could've come from classmates due to my lack of the aforementioned qualities.

Times were tough in the late '60s. Maybe not as bad as what some call the "mean-girl phenom," experienced now by many, but it was there. So I think the fact that my classmates knew how much my teachers liked me may have spared me from their belittling.

Not true for all girls in my class.

I'll never forget one who was not spared the pain, the hurt and the bullying. She was easy prey: short, overweight and not very attractive. Most days she pretended to be tough and take the bullying in stride, even though I saw the tears that were privately shed.

I did my best to defend her when I could. But my actions were rare. Most of the girls in our class -- and boys, too -- were relentless in their pursuit of pain, the kind of pain that was inflicted mostly through name-calling, taunting and ridicule. This was especially true at recess time, when teachers were not easily accessible, or when they deemed it to be "child's play." We were only 10 or 11 years old at the time, but the hurtful actions projected by some classmates against this girl were alarming. No child should have to experience this kind of bullying, and yet, sadly, it happens every day, even at our best schools.

The Kind Campaign

Recently, I ran across a post about the Kind Campaign and their film, Finding Kind, and I knew that I had to share it. It struck a chord in my memory of the hurt my classmate endured and came back to haunt me.

Take a minute to watch an excerpt of this moving film:

In Finding Kind, filmmakers Lauren Parsekian and Molly Thompson, who met while in school at Pepperdine University, set out in a cross-country journey of discovery and education. Interviewing women and girls along the way about their lives and experiences, Parsekian and Thompson find, among all of the unique personal stories, some universal truths about growing up as girls.

Finding Kind is a document of that journey, and of the filmmakers' quest to take these experiences and find a common ground of kindness and mutual respect.

In addition to all of the individual girls and women who share their personal experiences about girl-on-girl bullying, Parsekian and Thompson include interviews with respected experts and authors in the fields of psychology, education and the interrelationships of women and girls.

It's clear that the Kind Campaign is taking their message to the streets and sharing it across the world, and I believe that educators should do the same.

Eight Steps Toward a Kinder World

As a new teacher preparing to enter the classroom, or as an experienced one, you're going to encounter potentially volatile situations between students on any given day. That said, you should be prepared to work through it with your students, prepared to support the teaching of kindness which, for many students, will be just as important as any other content area you teach them.

Let's look at a few ways we can support teaching kindness:

  1. Take part in the Random Acts of Kindness Week, February 11-17, 2013.
  2. Immerse yourself daily in modeling the teaching of kindness in your classroom and school site.
  3. Find resources for your students that can promote the work of kindness in their lives at school.
  4. Get students involved in creating lessons on the subject and incorporate journal writing, video production and podcasting in delivering the "kindness" lesson.
  5. Check out what indie film makers Lauren Parsekian and Molly Thompson are doing to take the mission of kindness to schools across the U.S.
  6. Schedule a screening of Finding Kind in your own school or neighborhood.
  7. Watch and share this video on The Kindness School that's inspiring students and their communities.
  8. Do everything you can to be a warrior of kindness with your students!

What are you doing to teach kindness? What strategies do you have in place to de-escalate the issues when they hit? How will you protect the students in your care from gossip or bullying?

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Filed Under

  • Social & Emotional Learning (SEL)
  • Bullying Prevention
  • Diversity
  • Mental Health

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