We have all heard the saying, “Kindness goes a long way”. How far does it go in a school? What is our role in teaching kindness? Should it be part of our role? It isn’t part of the Common Core Standards, or required state standards. Where does it fit in our school day? We all know the answer, because it is simplistic in nature. Kindness is a state of mind and a true “feel” we get when we are around particular people or in a specific place. It’s either there, or it is absent. There may be moments where it is overshadowed, but if kindness is truly centered at the heart of a school culture, it will prevail. So…how do we get there?
A culture of kindness in a school starts and ends with the adults who serve the building. Our kids are watching every move we make, even when we think they aren’t. The question is…what will they see? Will they see adults expressing empathy, smiles, encouragement, shout outs, and genuine care for one another? A true culture of kindness within a school is completely dependent on the adults. How we treat each other must be how we expect our kids to treat each other. Empathy, vulnerability, and giving are three ways adults can model kindness for kids.
“Walk a mile in her shoes.” We have all heard this, but what does it truly mean? We can never know exactly what someone is going through or what someone feels, but we can make a conscious effort to try. We can listen, observe, and raise our awareness of the people around us in order to model empathy for our kids. If we want them to be patient with the actions of others, we must make modeling empathy with adults and kids a priority. Empathy creates opportunities for kids to become stronger internally, which helps them avoid taking everything so personally. It helps kids learn to think about the situations of others before passing judgement, and before making assumptions.
Being vulnerable is down right tough! It places us out of comfort zone, and can cause stress. It is when we are vulnerable that we can learn and grow the most. Kids need to see this side of us. They need to know that we don’t have all the answers, and we need others to help us become better. We simply cannot stand alone in our profession, for if we do, kids suffer the consequences. We owe it to the children we serve to face our weaknesses and rely on the strengths of others in order to become the best we can be for OUR kids! Pride can build a wall between ourselves, our peers, and our kids. Be brave. Be bold. Be uncomfortable. Do it for kids.
This morning I was sitting in my office, preparing for the day. It was right at 7:30, when the doors of our school open and kids begin filing in. As I prepared to leave my office and head outside to greet kids, one of my kiddos appeared in my doorway with a cup of coffee. A week or so earlier he approached me to tell me that one day he would bring me some coffee to school, and wanted to know how I liked to drink it. As he walked into my office with a huge smile on his face, full of pride, he said to me, “Mrs. Hill, I have your coffee just like I said! It has french vanilla in it,and I counted to five when I pushed the button.” As he stood there grinning at me with pride, I could not help the tears that surfaced as I hugged him so tight. This young man wanted to start my day with a gift. He wanted to make me smile. That’s not his job! I consider it my priority to make HIM smile, along with every other child on campus. He reminded me how important it is to model giving, whether it is a smile, a hug, or someone’s favorite drink! What a way to start my day. I couldn’t stop smiling, and neither could he. It was a win-win.
A culture of kindess doesn’t take a program. You can’t buy it in a package and try to implement it. The people within must bring it to life with authentic moments and interactions. It must be seen, heard, and most importantly, felt. It requires an empathetic nature among adults, vulnerability with one another, and giving. It starts with adults, because our kids are watching. They see our interactions with others, and they will use those to interact with their own peers. What do we need them to see? More importantly, if they see something they shouldn’t, how can we make it right? We are human, and we will fail kids at times. What we do with those mistakes is what will speak to our kids the most.
Remember…we do it for OUR kids!