Lessons in Kindness

Lessons in Kindness
Posted on 12/20/2018
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No students can have enough exercises, reminders, and examples of how to embody kindness toward others and toward themselves. Second grade teacher Mrs. Nikki Anderson seized an opportunity to offer a heartwarming lesson in kindness to her classroom of rambunctious students, with big hearts and curious minds. Their responses to the exercise surprised even her, and has created a lasting impact for her kids about the power of kind words and gestures in all situations.

During their journal time, Mrs. Anderson asked second graders to write about a time when someone had been unkind to them, or when they had witnessed someone being unkind to someone else. Journal entries were placed on post-it notes. Unbeknownst to students, Mrs. Anderson also participated, and included examples of unkindness that she had witnessed among students in her classroom and on the playground. The group read examples from the notes aloud in class, and discussed why those moments were hurtful. As she read each example, she asked students to touch and wrinkle a large heart that she placed at the front of the classroom. This exercise allowed them to hear about why and how moments and actions were unkind, and then see the hurt being caused on an object. As they wrinkled the heart, they would say - “Before you speak, think and be smart. It is hard to fix a wrinkled heart!”

The other half of the lesson was dedicated to taking the wrinkled heart and the examples of unkindness, and discussing ways to make the situations more positive. Students were either prompted to talk with the class about how to fix a specific moment of unkindness already named, or share about a situation where they felt kindness from someone else. She also tied the second half of the lesson to a key piece of their Social Contract (a contract designed at the beginning of the school year agreed upon by teachers and students to determine what behavior is acceptable in the classroom; the Social Contract is a vital part of the Capturing Kids Heart approach, which is used across the HSSD). By reminding students that unkind words are not only against classroom rules, they also create lasting negative impacts on all individuals, she created engaging conversation and several “aha moments” for students. Positive strategies for fixing the unkind words were placed on a chart in the middle of the wrinkled heart and a perfectly shaped heart to symbolize visually the difference it makes to be kind.

One student shared concerns about his physical appearance. During his example at a lunch, he was attempting to give away food so that he wouldn’t eat it. He shared with the class that a friend reminded him “He is just fine the way he is.” He described the moment as something that “made his heart smile,” and then he ate and enjoyed his lunch. He said “I said to myself, I’m William, and I’m a fine William.” He continued … “Now my heart has been smiling all day.”

Mrs. Anderson focused on how words do create hurt, and can oftentimes create permanent hurt for people that we may never see. They discussed how loving someone before we speak, even if we don’t say it out loud, helps to remind us to speak with kindness. A student observed, “My grandma has always said - ‘Sticks and stones can break your bones, but words will never hurt you’ … well she is wrong! I’m gonna go home and tell her.”

Capturing Kids’ Hearts is an approach to learning where teachers and staff work with students through relationships. A culture is developed through strategies and practices that builds and strengthens mutual respect, kindness, compassion, dialogue, and collaboration between teachers and students. The entire HSSD follows this methodology. One of the requirements of Capturing Kids Hearts is the development of a Social Contract in each classroom at the beginning of the school year. The Social Contract is designed to let all participants know what behavior is acceptable. It is an agreement of behavior that is developed by all students and the teacher, and promotes a self-managed class that has direct investment and authorship of their rules.

Learn more about Capturing Kids Hearts, here. Learn more about our HSSD Gardner Magnet STEM School, here.

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