In the book, Wonder by R.J. Palacio, she writes about Choosing Kind as the best option in life. This phrase resonated with me and sparked a new appreciation on how I discuss bullying with my 6th graders.WonderBook I then came across an article on the Edutopia website titled, “Why Teaching Kindness in Schools is Essential to Reduce Bullying” and knew this was the right angle to take with my incoming 6th graders. They have all heard the lectures about how bullying is wrong. I wanted to attack bullying from a different point of view. After reading the Edutopia article, I decided to teach kindness. What does it truly mean? I wanted my students to reflect on the meaning of kindness. I wanted them to pay it forward and start applying kindness to their peers at school. How would I do this as it is not as easy as it sounds?

Our school philosophy is SPIRIT, which is an acronym for Selflessness, Pride, Integrity, Respect, Involvement, and Trustworthiness. I knew I wanted to bring this philosophy in to my classroom kindness lessons as well. After much thought, and since I teach English Language Arts, I figured the most appropriate way would be through our daily writing prompts. My goal was to share a new picture book, video clip, short article, or poem each week that spoke to us about being kind, compassionate, and showing gratitude. I wasn’t sure how the students would respond to these types of texts and media. read more →

Gratitude … goes beyond the “mine” and “thine” and claims the truth that all of life is a pure gift. In the past, I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline. The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.

– Henri J. M. Nouwen

Several years ago I had the opportunity to attend an education conference in San Francisco, CA. While I was there, I learned many exciting findings from the “science of happiness.” That weekend revolutionized my perspectives related to teaching and parenting. Since then I have been on a quest to create a happier classroom and to help other teachers do the same thing.

One lesson I learned at the conference pertains to the relationship between happiness and success. As recent research has shown, success does not always lead to happiness. Many of us know this from experience. For example, landing a highly coveted job and buying your dream home may not necessarily result in a blissful state. On the other hand, people who are happy tend to find success in school, at work, and in every domain in life. read more →

Some children spend more of their time awake at school than they do in their own homes. That’s a big thing when you’re still growing and learning. It’s a big thing too for parents to entrust their precious ones to others, sometimes strangers, during these vital years. Especially as much of a child’s developing personality and morals can be so easily influenced by those around them.

During the early years of my own children’s education, I worried about the role models they would encounter at school. It concerned me that my hard work instilling good values may be lost if character education wasn’t a priority in the classroom.

Fortunately, these days, educators are more aware of the need to prioritize social and emotional learning at school. They realize the important role that kindness and empathy have in nurturing happiness and self-esteem.

“It’s no secret that kindness sparks kindness. The secret is that kindness takes wings when it is modeled and taught with passion and purpose. When we intentionally help and encourage our students to put kindness into action through their thoughts, words, and deeds, then the world will truly be a gentler, more peaceful place. Simply put, we’ll be better.

Girls holding handsKindness in schools can look like a smile, feel like a hug, sound like a sweet greeting or a sincere compliment. A genuine inquiry about how someone is doing can mean so much. And when we have created that climate of kindness and caring inside our school walls, the natural next step is to take it home to our families, out into our community and then beyond our borders into our global world. And when kindness ripples, prepare to bathe in a tsunami of goodness.”

Barbara Gruener, Counsellor, Westwood-Bales Elementary, Friendswood, Texas, USA read more →

You’ve heard the old saying “it takes a village to raise a child”. When it comes to their education, the same principle should be applied in the form of a positive and proactive partnership between teachers, student and parents.

I’m a huge advocate for clear, open communication between all parties to avoid misunderstandings and unnecessary stress. Good relationships between teachers and parents should be a priority to ensure the best outcome for children.

There are a number of simple things that parents and teachers can do to support one another.

Teachers supporting parents:

Keep parents up to date

Parents who confide in a teacher and don’t receive further feedback on an issue affecting their child can become frustrated and angry. If they’ve made an effort to contact the school, it means they’re genuinely concerned. They need to feel confident their child is being cared for by teachers staying contact and updating them on what’s being done.

Send home a note

Make a special effort to call or send home a note to parents of children who need extra support or are struggling to fit in. A teacher who shares a few kind words about their child’s successes or positive progress will win a parent’s heart in an instant. read more →

13 years ago I was expecting my first child. It had taken us a while to get pregnant with our first as I had undiagnosed health problems, so we were delighted with the news. We did everything that most first-time parents did, buying equipment as well as baby-proofing everything because that is what good parents do, right?

Our bouncing baby girl arrived and I was a very focused and dedicated parent. Monitoring every aspect of her life and making sure that her every need was attended to. Life went on and we continued to extend the family with 3 more children, all boys. As my family grew in size and age, I began to observe and learn about what was helping them to grow and what was stopping them from growing.

As time went on, I realised that the better and more efficient mother I became, the more often I disadvantaged my children. In an attempt to make sure that my children were happy, healthy, comfortable and safe I was actually preventing them from experiencing all aspects of life. I was undermining their confidence and I was denying them the tools they needed to thrive. Let me explain. read more →

The Knit-For Service Club began in 2004 with twenty members and has grown to eighty-plus boys and girls who knit to help others. The first year, we made one patchwork blanket to donate to Harold, the King of the Valentine’s Day Dance, at his retirement home. Since then, we have collectively knit over two dozen blankets and two thousand baby hats for people in need.

The second year, we invited those inaugural club members to keep up their skills by coming back as mentors to the rookie knitters.960x540

In our third year, Save the Children® in Connecticut asked us to join its Caps to the Capital campaign. That visit resulted in our club’s effort to rally the community to help us send 329 handmade caps to developing countries to help reduce the infant mortality rate. Consequently, we were invited that January to deliver a basket of those caps to the White House. Elizabeth, our young Westwood Ambassador, left one of her hats with the First Lady’s chief of staff. When asked how it felt to leave her handiwork with the First Lady, Elizabeth remarked, “It was okay, I suppose. But I really made that hat for a baby.” A project with a purpose. Be still my beating heart.

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A teacher in New York used the crumpled paper exercise to show her students the last impact that bullying can have. read more →

As a mother of three teenage daughters and an experienced elementary school teacher, I am deeply concerned about our kids. Let me explain. Children today live in a world filled with technology — ipad interaction from birth, social media from pre-teens and access to everything and anything on the Internet from a very young age. Don’t get me wrong, as a teacher I know technology can be an amazing tool for learning. Extraordinary really. What does deeply trouble me, is the negative aspect of child/learner interaction with technology.

I have come back to teaching after four years away. What I found on my return, was many children (dare I say the boys) had a much lower attention span than I had previously experienced in my teaching practice. Where once I had five- and six-year-olds listening and focused for 15 minutes, they were now only engaged for around five minutes. After that period of time, eyes started to roam, feet began to fidget and turning around seem a more entertaining thing to do!

In a time of technology overload, and on-line and off-line societal pressures, I have come to the conclusion that we need to formally teach our children the following:

  1. To be mindful of others and of themselves. That is, to show respect and empathy towards others and to show respect and empathy towards themselves.
  1. To be resilient. That is, we need children to feel confident about themselves and to be able to accept disappointment and even rejection without losing a sense of self. The teaching of resilience goes hand in hand with children learning to be assertive — both about their bodies and their mindset.
  1. To be focused learners. That is, I believe we formally need to teach children in a school environment to focus on a task and to slow their mind down, allowing them to sustain longer concentration.

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We teach our children water safety and road safety — it is equally important to teach our children ‘body safety’ from a very young age. As both a teacher and a mother, I strongly recommend to all parents that ‘body safety’ become a normal part of your parenting conversation. The sexual abuse of children has no social boundaries, and providing children with body safety skills both empowers them with knowledge of what is good and bad touch, and teaches simple but effective assertiveness — a crucial life skill.

The statistics of 1 in 3 girls and I in 6 boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday is truly frightening, and as many experts point out, this statistic only reflects reported cases. Also, 93% of children WILL know their perpetrator. The community’s focus has so often been on ‘stranger danger’ — however, the reality is, the perpetrator will most likely be someone in the child’s immediate family circle and a person they know and trust.

To assist parents and educators, here is a summary of the KEY Body Safety Skills every parent/educator should teach their child. Please note, these skills can be taught gradually and in daily conversations as your child grows.

Body Safety Skills

  • As soon as your child begins to talk and is aware of their body parts, begin to name them correctly, e.g. toes, nose, eyes, etc. Children should also know the correct names for their genitals from a young age. Try not to use ‘pet names’. This way, if a child is touched inappropriately, they can clearly state to you or a trusted adult where they have been touched.
  • Teach your child that their penis, vagina, bottom, breasts and nipples are called their ‘private parts’ and that these are their body parts that go under their swimsuit. Note: a child’s mouth is also known as a ‘private zone’.
  • Teach your child that no-one has the right to touch or ask to see their private parts, and if someone does, they must tell you or a trusted adult or older teenager straightaway. Reinforce that they must keep on telling until they are believed. (Statistics tell us that a child will need to tell three people before they are believed.) As your child becomes older (3+) help them to identify five people they could tell. These people are part of their ‘network’.

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42% of kids report having been the victim of some form of cyberbullying reports Family Internet Safety Advocate, Sue Scheff. In the past decade, parents and educators have become increasingly aware of this staggering statistic, and bullying prevention programs have been written in response. But there’s a fault in these programs.

 

Saying STOP Is Difficult To Do

This is the crux of the problem. We tell our kids that being a bystander is just as bad as being the bully and that they should stand up to cyberbullying, but we don’t teach them how to do this. And the truth is that this is very, very hard to do—as an adult and as a kid.

My Own Brush With Cyberbullying

I’m a freelance writer so last year, after my twelfth wedding anniversary, I wrote a neat and tidy article, “12 Things Happily Married Women Know.” The comments that came in on it weren’t about marriage, they were about my weight and how fat I looked in my wedding dress. I was devastated. It took me months to move past this sadness and get to a place where I could call out my cyberbullies and stand up for myself. When I did, it was in a second article, “I Wrote An Article About Marriage And All Anyone Noticed Is That I’m Fat.” In it, I said two simple things: don’t talk about other people’s bodies and let’s be kinder to each other online. That article went viral and from it, I landed a book deal for a book on how to teach our kids to be kind online. Some days I call this “just desserts.” Other days I call it, “taking lemons and making lemonade.” read more →

What is the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy?

Have you ever been asked to do a task – maybe you were starting a new job – and you believed before you started that you wouldn’t be good at it? Maybe you thought to yourself, ‘I am not going to be able to do this,’ only to try it out and realize that your fears were correct? This is known as a self-fulfilling prophecy. A sociologist named Robert K. Merton created this term in 1948 to describe ‘a false definition of the situation evoking a new behavior which makes the originally false conception come true.’ In other words, the prediction we make at the start of something affects our behavior in such a way that we make that prediction happen.

Since studying it for my BA, The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy (SFP) has become a concept that frames my entire life. It is the way that I understand the world. It feeds in to the way that I react with myself and others. It’s the important concept that changed my thinking forever. It is the premise that the way that we think of ourselves, and the way that others think of us moulds us. It is vitally important because it can directly affect the way that we experience the world.

If I believe that I can, then I can. If I believe that you can, it helps you to believe it too. read more →

Why kindness should be taught in schools pic.
Kindness Is Best Learned By Feeling It

Phrases like “random acts of kindness” and “pay it forward” have become popular terms in modern society. Perhaps this could be best explained by those who have identified a deficiency in their lives that can only be fulfilled by altruism.

It seems that we just can’t get enough of those addictive, feel-good emotions — and with good reason. Scientific studies prove that kindness has many physical, emotional, and mental health benefits. And children need a healthy dose of the warm-and-fuzzies to thrive as healthy, happy, well-rounded individuals.

Patty O’Grady, PhD, an expert in neuroscience, emotional learning, and positive psychology, specializes in education. She reports:

Kindness changes the brain by the experience of kindness. Children and adolescents do not learn kindness by only thinking about it and talking about it. Kindness is best learned by feeling it so that they can reproduce it.

A great number of benefits have been reported to support teaching kindness in schools, best summed up by the following.

Happy, Caring Children

The good feelings that we experience when being kind are produced by endorphins. They activate areas of the brain that are associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust. These feelings of joyfulness are proven to be contagious and encourage more kind behavior (or altruism) by the giver and recipient.

Increased Peer Acceptance

Research on the subject has determined that kindness increases our ability to form meaningful connections with others. Kind, happy children enjoy greater peer acceptance because they are well liked. Better-than-average mental health is reported in classrooms that practice more inclusive behavior due to an even distribution of popularity. read more →