On Kindness

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I woke this morning thinking about the unkindness towards one another as peers that was evident in one of my high school senior class periods.

I am adamant and persistent and rather strict about one of my few classroom rules: maintaining a positive learning environment (PLE). We discuss at the beginning of the school year what this does and does not look like. It is not sunshine and lollipops. I don’t want fake. But I simply won’t tolerate meanness (or intolerant ignorance) of any kind, even “just kiddings” in my classroom. Offenders are immediately ejected from my room and wait in the hallway for me to have a word with them before documenting and reflecting on their behavior in writing.

In the class period I woke thinking about, we had a time-out discussion about this as a class because the climate has been gradually, unpleasantly shifting to unkindness. Some of their defenses were that it is human nature and that is the reality of the world out there, so they are just preparing each other. Wow. Shame on them? Or shame on us?

Today, we will stop academics altogether and explore this more in a silent, individual reflective writing prompt (a mandated English Language Arts Common Core standard technically). Because those reasons are not good enough to me. They know I expect more from them, individually and collectively, than that, that they cannot use that as an excuse. They know, because I’ve vocalized it, and I try always to model it, that we can do it better than that. Better than the bad examples our media highlights for them. Which makes me return to thinking about where are those love and kindness stories? Perhaps, yes… this will be an extended assignment. Find and share a positive humanity story…

Yes, it seems mean-acting people, bullying, even the same cliques in our schools (and society) is universal and timeless. But there have also been kind-acting people, heroes, and cross-clique unity. It is my belief that ignorance is taught. Can compassion and empathy be taught? The latter is my nature. I can’t imagine intentionally using the gift of language for harm, as a weapon for mass internal destruction.

What baffles me most is no one likes to be hurt, to be made fun of, be misunderstood, be treated cruelly, unfairly. So why, why, why do we do it to others? Why, class? Why, society?

I believe. In kindness. In tolerance acceptance. In love.

I believe I can make a difference. I believe you can make a difference. I believe in you. I believe in us. I believe in humanity.

Nothing raises my reverence in the character of individuals more than witnessing them displaying organic, genuine, random, discreet acts of kindness. The kind that occurs even, especially, when no one is looking. You, who included that “outcast” into your group to complete the classwork, I saw you. And I respect you immensely. To the point of hidden, held-back tears. You restore my faith. In kindness. In love. In humanity.

“Let peace begin with me” must move from the shelf of impossible, utopian ideologies and become a reality. Let it begin. Today. Here. Now. With you. And me.

3 thoughts on “On Kindness

  1. Perfectly stated, Laura! I also work with high school students, and even some of my non-verbal, autistic students try to bully their classmates. The response has to be immediate and specific. Your tactic here is totally on point. I hope that there is widespread insight from it.

    Liked by 1 person

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