365 Days of Kindness:
As a middle school art teacher I have confronted all kinds of inappropriate behavior from youngsters in my art classroom. The very culture in which we live in is filled with greed, contempt and hatred for each other. We are a competitive society that loves to cheer for the hockey hero that smashes the head of the other team’s players. We scream with glee when a football player is tackled with such force that he lands in the hospital. Our children emulate the world wrestling champions they see depicted on television. We angrily yell through our car windows at drivers we think are crazy. We cut in line at the store when we see the slow old lady pushing her cart towards an empty lane. Anyone witnessing this type of behavior would laugh and say we need an anger management course. I think we need to learn to be kinder and we certainly need to set examples for our children to follow. If we are to change society we must change ourselves and become the example that we really want to be for our children.
As a middle school art teacher I recognize that I have the power to do something in my own small way to change the course of our society. Being kind isn’t that difficult. Sticking with a program of kindness isn’t that difficult. Convincing students to become the person that others look up to also isn’t that difficult but of course taking the first step is the hardest. If I want to see a change in my classroom or in the world for that matter, I must start with myself and my students. I have always been what I consider to be a kind hearted person but I have never really given a lot of thought to how I could help others become more thoughtful about their actions. In our school we have many caring professionals that find ways to show students how to do nice things for others. Different teachers have for many years held can drives, spaghetti dinners, “adopt a family” at Christmas time and many such other ways to do things for people in need and to show students how they could help. My goal isn’t to do a “one time fix” but to actually try and change the culture of meanness that I was witnessing on a daily basis in my classroom and in the hallways of my school.
I started out small by doing something nice for the students like making cookies and in turn asking them to do something nice for someone else that day. I passed out nice coupons encouraging students to pass them on when they did something nice for someone else in the hope that the person receiving the coupon would do something nice for someone else and pass the coupon on creating an unending cycle of goodness. I have since done many different things that have helped to change the culture in my classroom. I challenge other people to do the same. I create a safe environment for the students. Students know they won’t be bullied in my classroom. I have a close connection to the students and I encourage them to try and be their best. Truly, isn’t that what we want for our children? What can you do to challenge yourself the next time that crazy driver cuts you off or something at work sets off your “crazy” button? I choose to be kind and find a way to push that kindness into the discussion. What will you do?