We recently asked ourselves: How do we instill a sense of empowerment and ownership towards building a respectful community in our classroom? How can we slow ourselves down enough to pass by each other with respect and consideration during our day? One of the foremost goals that we have for the children in our care is to learn to be kind. Our Four and Five year olds are thinking hard about defining the word KINDNESS. What does it mean to be kind? What does kindness look like? At our daily gatherings both teachers and children took time to role model examples of what they thought it meant to be kind.
B: It’s nice to say please and thank you
S: If a friend takes something, you can say, I was using that
O: Letting someone else have a turn in 5 minutes
J: Wait while someone else is talking
S: Sharing my toys
E: May I please have it after you?
Working in small groups, the children decorated Kindness Cards. Each child has their own uniquely decorated card. There is a card for the parent helper of the day, and one was made for each teacher. The next task at hand becomes identifying kindness in our day. When the children are able to identify an act of kindness in the classroom they are encouraged to place that person’s kindness card in the jar.
Our week’s end target is to have the jar full of everyone’s cards. Each time the jar is full the class comes together to reflect. They remove the cards and try to remember the act of kindness that prompted a friend to place the card into the jar. There is a small celebration of friendship and rapport that surfaces during these reflection times. The team then votes on one special group activity, one that will take place in the following week. The first vote was a landslide decision to pop popcorn for snack.
This may at first seem a bit formal and practiced, perhaps. Currently kindness cards are pinned on a high wall, where teachers can get them down. As a child requests a card to be moved to the jar, it opens the door for the teacher to have a conversation about the act of kindness: What did the child see? How was that act kind? How did you respond? As children begin to see and add more and more kindness to their daily repertoire these conversations strengthen their acts. They see the jar being filled, and their efforts are visually as well as emotionally growing larger. Over time kindness will find its way into a more intrinsic place in our classroom, and the process of asking for cards and bringing them to the jar may dwindle, and may not be as necessary. That is exactly the point. By focusing our full attention on the importance of kindness now we anticipate reaping the benefits of a caring community that reflects support, acceptance and thoughtfulness.
Did you know it’s reported that even small acts of kindness heighten our sense of well-being, increase our energy, and give a wonderful feeling of optimism and self-worth? Here is an article that supports the health benefits of Kindness, defined.
Posted by Hilary Odoy, with excerpts from our Green Dragonfly Classroom blog by Carolyn Evans and Blake Moskowitz