Kindness is the Cure
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 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. And applying social and emotional intelligence has become more important than academic and technical competence to be “job ready.” According to the Carnegie Institute of Technology, 85% of your success is due to your personality and ability to communicate, negotiate and lead. Shockingly, only 15% is due to technical skills.”
A Project with a Social/Emotional Learning Focus
Recently, I worked with a school creating an experiential, cross-curricular unit addressing negative student behavior. The purpose was to make students aware of the impact of their inappropriate behavior. But I like to be pro-active. Rather than accepting mediocrity and teaching what was appropriate and inappropriate behavior, the team of teachers and I decided to reach for a more positive goal and outcome. We created a unit called, “Be Kind.”
The consulting project, included 4 parts, providing a scaffolded approach. There were 2 classes and 4 teachers participating.
- First the teachers participated in a professional development session learning powerful strategies, part of a new methodology, while “living inside a story.” We used a story as an analogy making it safe to explore inside of the story, trying out different responses and learning from the reactions of other characters.
- Then demonstration lessons were taught to students while teachers observed and participated. Both teachers and students were engrossed in the process.
- Later, teachers worked with students while being mentored.
- The cross-curricular unit concluded with a school assembly where the students in the unit shared the learning which they had experienced: dance and drama activities, oral language and singing. Teachers also learned the value and simplicity of sharing the learning process with the rest of the school.
Examples of Activities
Using a powerful story, which acts like an analogy to life, students discover their learning through role play. This story and some process drama activities are available as a download on my website.
A powerful activity which is prepared before the unit starts and used later in role, is “Showing Appreciation.” Students write a genuine compliment to a few other students in the class. They are only a couple of sentences but stem from observation and experience. E.g. “Patrick, I love the way you dive into new topics. You are not afraid to try new things. You help people in the class when they look like they need it and you are a great team worker.” The teacher must make sure that everyone in the class is being written about. Later in the drama, each student is given one compliment, that they wrote, to read at a ceremony.
- Ceremony/Ritual: Students organize a symbolic ritual to remind the community of their values e.g. dances/gestures/giving and receiving compliments (warm fuzzies.) Students write, draw, create meaningful compliments (warm fuzzies) for each other and present them at the ceremony. The ceremony can include a chant written by the villagers to remind them of their history with warm fuzzies and the importance to their health.
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. Students learn to speak of real life experiences without pointing fingers at specific individuals. This allows students an opportunity to learn from community. Students who have played the role of victims, bullies and by-standers benefit from this type of community learning.
We explore the power of the by-stander and call them “up-standers” (a person who stands up for another.) 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…Be Kind
During the unit, Mr. Wallace, the Music teacher, spun his magic. He created a song with the students. It was a very catchy song where students sang and played their recorders. The song was part of the sharing assembly. And months later, it was shared at an international conference, Quest 2017. Have a look and listen here.
The impact of the work we did together in that school continues in another way as well. While students entered the gym for an assembly months later, they were asked, “What do I do to be kind?” Their responses were written on a piece of wide, coloured duct tape which they stuck 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