Cultivating a taste of kindness furthers the associations among people. In the same way, interactions among pupils and teachers are heightened in classrooms. If teachers spare their limited time to willingly promote kindness, it will foster empathy and understanding between pupils, leading to profound relationships. From kindness, relationships form, trust develops, which allows a culture of learning to blossom where all pupils feel genuinely valued. Valued for who they are and what they contribute as unique individuals.
Through both my research and experience, I’ve learnt some key insights that teachers who would like to develop pupils’ innate kindness in a classroom can apply.
First, kindness should be modelled. Modelling kindness is one of the best ways to teach kindness in the classroom by the teacher. For example, if a teacher asks a pupil for assistance, he or she should thank the pupil before the rest. Also the teacher should make a point of being overly kind to other teachers, subordinate staff and parents in front of the pupils. Soon they'll start offering the same treatment just as respectfully and kindly or even better. Pupils look to teachers as models for what’s expected, and if we're treating others kindly they will follow suit.
Second, the teacher must stress on friendship. In fact, a printout reading 'we are all friends' should be crying out loudly on the classroom walls. Because friendships are the soft colors of nature, the delicate browns and the sky that deeps to show us the stars, they are the earthiness that lasts a lifetime and so it should be embraced. This can verily heighten kindness in the classroom as a friend can help another sharpen a pencil, play games or read together. Most importantly these friends need to listen to each other and take turns when in conversation.
Third, a teacher can create a spreading kindness challenge. When one act of kindness is conducted between classmates, the recipients of the act pass on a new act of kindness to another classmate until the entire classroom family has experienced at least one act of kindness that was bestowed upon them at closing circle. This should be done often.
In addition, teachers should teach empathy with intentionality. Kindness is rooted in empathy and acceptance. Empathy is to understand your friends’ situation, experience, feelings and behaviours, and it is the foundation of this concern. If one wants to be generous towards or help friends, he or she needs to understand where they are and what they are dealing with, both the good and the bad. Even if you are not cool with your friends’ choices and behaviours, you decide not to enable them going forward, you can still empathise with them.The pupils should be taught to seek to understand first then to be understood. This very important habit once cultured helps pupils to learn to be kind to others especially when dealing with conflict. Through this, pupils see each other through eyes of kindness and appreciate what each other is feeling.
Moreover, collaborative class discussions every morning are a great opportunity for pupils to develop empathy as they learn to listen with understanding and consider how best to respond to their peers. With this, pupils can gather in a circle for a welcome message and short discussion. Then, they can partner up to engage, personally greet their friends and go deeper in discussion. Often they can change partners and finally regroup into a circle.
During these discussions, pupils may discuss a topic shared by the teacher and as they gain autonomy, they can take on leadership roles by helping to create the morning message or topic of discussion. Class discussions support learners to understand the best ways to approach their peers by greeting one another with kindness and responding or posing questions appropriately and with empathy. When this culture for learning is built on the foundation of relationships and trust, learners feel embraced by their teacher and peers, deepening learning experiences and fostering a strong community.
Ultimately, for pupils to perfect what they have been taught, action comes in handy. Often times, children may be able to identify ‘needs,” yet not know how to take action. A teacher should empower his or her pupils to take initiative. This can start by simply discussing needs and generating ways to meet those needs. It doesn't stop there! A small class community service project is a great way to connect to the community and provide an intentional opportunity for the pupils to experience empathy. The class can choose a need from their list, and guide them through process of making a difference. It could be as simple as encouragement cards to the local nursing home. While the teacher is teaching pupils to empathize, he or she is simultaneously exercising their creativity and critical thinking skills in the process. If pupils in Kindergarten are molded into 'do-ers,' they will eventually morph into high school students who are collaborators, initiators, and critical thinkers. No matter what level of pupils a teacher handles, he/she should never underestimate the impact. A stone cast in Kindergarten can create a ripple effect throughout a lifetime!
In a classroom, everyone (teacher and pupils) should understand that kindness is a really wonderful, beautiful and complex quality. It’s also something that is deeply personal to a person. True kindness can be tough, and it might leave one feeling less than kind. But even when you say no to yourself or others, you can do so from a place of love and compassion. And when you want to help someone, it is doing so based on a genuine compassion for a fellow human being or creature, not to create a debt or try to make yourself look good. Kindness is acting without expectation of reciprocity or recognition although there’s nothing wrong with enjoying those things or the good feelings showing kindness generates within us.
I am Tess,
I teach at the Créche Kindergarten