April 9, 2013

Kindness - A Recurring Theme

Every once in awhile all the pockets of spark that I come across intersect and whether it's true or not it really feels like the universe is pulling together to communicate something important. Today I had to write about it. The trigger was an impromptu conversation with my student teacher about how sometimes, teaching core curricular outcomes gets set aside for a period and this is okay. Because sometimes it's important to have a conversation about how to be a good person; about what it means to be kind, to make a thoughtful decision, to show compassion or respect. If real teaching is inspiring the hearts and minds of children, then taking time for these conversations, creating space and modelling the kind of brave compassion that leads to hope and change is the most important thing we do.

My contribution to the conversation was inspired by a few powerfully important points made a week ago by Philadelphia principal Chris Lehmann who blogged:
"The factory model of education that persists in most American high schools is designed to limit meaningful human interaction, not create it...  That has to change. We have to recognize that teaching kindness is more than just modeling “being nice to kids,” we have understand that kindness is the essentially the act of extending one’s self in the care of another."
And then I ran across a terribly saddening article about the suicide of a Canadian teenage gang rape victim that just seemed to be crying for attention to be paid to the issue of how we cultivate kindness in schools. Rehtaeh was virtually abandoned by a community that should have rallied to protect and support her. As Kaye Toal blogged
"I’m sorry, Rehtaeh. I’m sorry that so many people failed you. I’m sorry that we are all complicit in a culture that shames and silences and browbeats victims literally to death. We created this. We built it."
But we can fix it. Kindness, thoughtfulness and compassion belong in schools - I cannot think of a locale where they might live more genuinely if treated properly. But we have to consciously invest in re-focusing our attention and our conversations. I was so grateful to conclude my evening by running across the most beautiful words of hope written by a mom, Glennon Melton to her son on the eve of his first day in third grade. She writes:
"Chase - We do not care if you are the smartest or fastest or coolest or funniest. There will be lots of contests at school, and we don’t care if you win a single one of them. We don’t care if you get straight As. We don’t care if the girls think you’re cute or whether you’re picked first or last for kickball at recess. We don’t care if you are your teacher’s favorite or not. We don’t care if you have the best clothes or most Pokemon cards or coolest gadgets. We just don’t care. 
We don’t send you to school to become the best at anything at all. We already love you as much as we possibly could. You do not have to earn our love or pride and you can’t lose it. That’s done. 
We send you to school to practice being brave and kind. 
Kind people are brave people. Brave is not a feeling that you should wait for. It is a decision. It is a decision that compassion is more important than fear, than fitting in, than following the crowd. Trust me, baby, it is. It is more important. 
Don’t try to be the best this year, honey. Just be grateful and kind and brave. That’s all you ever need to be."
Those words reflect what I hope for every child that ever steps into my classroom. Be grateful, be kind, be brave. If every school community could build the capacity to live those words it could change things. Really change them. As I was imagining a world in which everyone lived with that kind of support and confidence, I came across a post from the Exp.lore blog with the tag line: "Imagine a world without hate."

I'm imagining...


  1. I love everything you wrote here . How fortunate the students you have in your care have YOU!

    1. Thanks Susan! I am sure I am not alone which gives me hope:-)

  2. Deirdre,
    Wow, all those thoughts really did come together. I've enjoyed reading and viewing all the powerful pieces that inspired this post. Thanks for putting them all together and sharing them with the world.

    That "Imagine the World Without Hate" video is thoughtful and compelling. It made me weep.

    Thanks again,

    1. Thank you for your lovely comments Denise:) I am grateful to all the wonderful people out there making videos like that one and inspiring change.