This week was very interesting in the world of teaching for me because I had to spend time with each class revisiting our safety protocol when students are in my classroom. In light of the recent school shooting I tried to wrap my brain around what is happening with our kids. I’m not a psychologist, and I’m not even going to touch on politics, guns, or anything that everyone seems to be fighting about. What I want to talk about is kindness, basic human kindness.
When I am at a loss for answers and when I am really struggling with how to find a solution to a problem, I tend to ask lots of questions. I have seen a very serious shift in recent years with how we ALL treat each other. We hide behind screens and lash out at others that don’t believe the exact same way we believe. We fight over gun rights and laws. We call each other names and behave, in my opinion, like absolute jerks for no reason. We think because we read an article, we are experts, even if we have literally no other knowledge on a subject. What has happened to basic decency and simple kindness? I’m not talking about God. I’m not talking about religion and I say that because no doubt someone will read this and insert their opinion that we’ve gotten away from God, therefore the world is falling apart. I will not agree nor disagree on that point. I don’t want to make this about anything that people can argue over. I’m talking about me as a teacher walking through a door at the high school and a student holds it open, or someone says hello or good morning to a stranger because that’s what we should do. We have completely abandoned so many simple things that can make someone else feel valued and seen. I wanted to examine how we all could be better at recognizing others who seem lost, so I went to some of the best problem solvers I know, my students.
Talking about safety this week opened up a wonderful dialogue with my students of all ages. The questions that I asked them were, “how do you think that we can help others who are hurting, and how can we be part of the solution, not the problem? How can we treat others with more genuine kindness?” Kids are quite awesome and they have a simple honesty in the answers that they give. I heard dozens of answers, and here are a few; “play with others, don’t call people names, think before you speak, think before you act, be a friend, stick up to a bully, smile at others and give them a compliment, include everyone, if someone is sitting alone at lunch invite them to your table, don’t make fun of others, say please and thank you, talk with kindness and let others know that they are being heard (loved that answer), be positive, accept those who look different than you, tell an adult if you need help, and if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” I stood there listening and they were so passionate about it, I started writing their answers down. I was so impressed that they were challenging themselves to come up with small practical things that they could do.
You see, I think as adults many of us have lost our ability to listen to any opinion other than our own. The second one word is uttered that is not what we want to hear, we shut down and the fight is on. I have always been very outspoken, sometimes it has gotten me in trouble. But I can say with all honesty that when I speak out it is because I am telling the truth, even if that truth is not what I want it to be. But if someone has a different opinion or thought, I listen before I speak. I constantly make mistakes, but I use those mistakes to examine my own behavior and make changes. I want us all to be honest about our behavior. We are the teachers of our children, and we are doing a really poor job. Our kids, whether our own or others, see how we behave. They see us fight, and yell, and call each other names. In return, they do the same. We are teaching an entire generation that the only opinion that matters is their own. We have to do better. We can turn this around. We can teach our kids to seek out the lonely and the lost, and become a friend. Teachers try to do this a lot, but it also has to come from home. As a mom, and as a teacher of many years, I just want to make our children and students kindness warriors! I want them to be students who take action, and not be hurtful reactors.
I challenged them and I challenge you. Stop fighting , it does no good. Stop treating others with so much contempt. It actually takes much more effort to be horrible to someone than it does to be kind. Get off social media, if all you do is virtually yell and participate in ugliness. Stop sharing hateful posts. Instead, be an example to those coming behind us. I truly believe that this is literally a matter of life and death. Teaching our young people to include that one student may make all the difference in the future.
This is my “kindness project” and I hope it will help you examine the way you are treating others and behaving towards others. I know that it is making me examine myself. Maybe, just maybe, we can cause a shift. I truly believe that basic human kindness can change the world. Delusion of grandeur, maybe. But I’m not giving up. I still believe in people, for now! And that my friends is today’s dish!