Kindness is the Cure
A project with a social/emotional learning focus:
A grade 3 student says, “You mean we can be friends again after we make a mistake?” Students learn the “Make it Right Formula” and ah ha moments are visible in their eyes.
The thrill of those ah ha moments is what gives me great joy! And it doesn’t matter if that is with children or adults, the thrill is the same.
Principals often want me to address the theme of bullying when I come into a school. I have come to realize that every school struggles with students who need lessons in how to deal with their feelings. In fact, social/emotional learning is a popular term in education now.
I like to be pro-active. Rather than having certain behaviours at a tolerable level, why not aim for something much more positive. Adam Grant, co-writer of “Option B Facing Adversity, Finding Resilience and Building Joy” says, “Proactive giving can be energizing. It gives and fills at the same time.” So, together with the teachers, we decide to call the unit, “Be Kind.” Proactive giving happens with me giving workshops and here is how it happens in a classroom.
The consulting project, includes 4 parts, providing a scaffolded approach.
- First the teachers participate in a professional development session learning powerful strategies, part of a new methodology, while “living inside a story.” We use a story as an analogy making it safe to explore inside of the story, trying out different responses and learning from the reactions of others inside the story.
- Then demonstration lessons are taught with students while teachers observe and participate. Both teachers and students are engrossed in the process.
- Later, teachers work with students while being mentored.
- The cross-curricular unit concludes with a school assembly. Teachers learn the value and simplicity of sharing the learning process with a wider audience.
Relationships Breed Well-Being
Students participate in empowering strategies and learning games that allow them to experience different perspectives, learn to rebuild trust and to repair relationships. They learn to take responsibility for their actions, inactions and words. We debrief each experience relating to other texts and real life. They learn to speak of real life experiences without pointing fingers at specific individuals. This allows for community learning for students who have played the role of victims, bullies and by-standers. We explore the power of the by-stander and call them “up-standers.” We explore attitudes and actions of upstanders and students realize how powerful they can be and the difference they can make.
Speaking, Writing, Drawing, Reading, Math, Drama, Dance and Music are included in the unit. The learning is deep as students’ emotions are engaged.
The homeroom teachers are part of the project as are the Drama/Dance teacher and the Music teacher. All of us are learners on a journey. We are teachers for each other and we recognize the students as teachers too. We are community. The culture is enriched. Trust is built. We experience healthy relationships and that breeds a sense of well-being.
The Impact of the Work Continues
During the unit, Mr. Wallace, the Music teacher, spins his magic. He creates a song with the students. It is a very catchy song where students sing and play their recorders. The song is part of the sharing assembly. And months later, it is shared at an international conference, Quest 2017. Have a look and listen here. You may want to use it as your school song.
The impact of the work we did together in that school continues in another way as well. While students enter the gym for an assembly months later, they are asked, “What do I do to be kind?” and asked to record their answers on a piece of wide coloured duct tape. Their responses are written on the tape which they stick on a large outline on the gym wall. It is a permanent reminder of the school pulling together to remember the lessons to be bold “upstanders,” to “make it right” and to “be kind.”
Blog by Margaret Boersma