Tomorrow is the anniversary of the heart-wrenching tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, resonating in the souls of so many parents and educators still today. How do we even attempt to keep our children safe in this world, especially in the world of their classroom, their recess playground, their cafeteria, their media center?
Our doors are locked, we practice lockdown procedures, we ask children to practice at regular intervals behaviors for an event we pray they will never need to experience. We are doing all we believe is possible, and yet our hearts still ache for the loss of the joy and freedom of childhood.
My experience in the classroom tells me that children learn what we teach them. If they trust and value the person delivering the lesson, the lesson becomes a part of each of them. We are so focused on delivering the “standards”, papering our walls with goals and targets, prepping for endless and often meaningless academic tests, that I am afraid that we are getting farther and farther away from the relationships and character building that were commonplace before all of the push towards high stakes assessments.
There is little time in our schedules to teach about kindness and character. What do we leave out? What if our kids are less than prepared for math standard some number.some letters.some other number?
Just today: in Colorado, another senseless shooting ending with the suicide of the shooter.
I know that each of the perpetrators of the unimaginable crimes we hear of in the news was once a child sitting in a first grade or fourth grade or seventh grade classroom. I can’t help thinking about this today. What messages did that child receive in school? Was he bullied or teased? Did he feel not good enough because he didn’t make a high enough score on a test? Did he feel accepted and valued by his teachers? Did he think that the work he did was important?
I am not naive enough to believe that real mental illness can be overcome by good teaching, neither am I assigning blame to the teachers of any of the shooters, but I believe that real change can and does happen in small increments. Greg at Smedley’s Smorgasbord of Kindergarten has a great idea for how we can start. What if each of us does one small act of kindness today, and then finds a way to present the idea of kindness to others to our students as we go through the weeks and months ahead. This focus on kindness can be our tribute to the Sandy Hook kids and staff who were not given the chance to go on making a difference for others. Read his whole post at http://www.thekindergartensmorgasboard.com/2013/12/a-kindergarten-smorgasboard-of_9.html
Some resources I recommend for inspiring kindness and justice in your students are the entire song library at I Am Bullyproof Music http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/I-Am-Bullyproof-Music
The sweet songs that you will find here will delight and inspire your students to become kinder, more caring, stronger, and more confident human beings.
My students and I call these songs “the sound track of our lives”. We sing them at the start of the day, the end of the day, and the transitions between subjects all day long. (One way to sneak the kindness lessons back into the curriculum!)
Another idea that is perfect for January is to take the “Kindness and Justice Challenge” inspired by the teachings of Martin Luther King and started by his family. Here’s a free product that can get your students collecting their acts of kindness and justice and thinking about the next kind act in their future. http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Acts-of-Kindness-and-Justice-Build-a-Wall-468952 It’s free!!!!
This year, I have added some kindness cards to my December calendar. Each day, we turn over a new card that suggests another way to be kind. Thanks, Rick’s Resources, for this one! My kids love it! Not free, but worth it! http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Acts-of-Kindness-Social-Skills-32-Task-Cards-Grades-2-6-738305
This is a really long post for me, but I need to share one story here:
Our night custodian came into my room on Wednesday evening this week to tell me that one of my students had actually approached her in the hall after school to thank her for doing such a great job cleaning our room every day. She had tears in her eyes when she told me that she has been at this job for 25 years and this was the first student who had ever thanked her! It meant so much to her to hear those simple words.
I’m joining Greg in his movement for more kindness, and I hope you’ll join in, too!