Helping hold the bowl

Kindness

“I’ll get the soap for you” says a slightly taller child to a shorter one who couldn’t get the right angle on the soap dispenser.

At this time of year, teachers observe more and more spontaneous acts of kindness occurring in the classrooms. The children have had a few months in which to share experiences, get to know each other, and join community building activities and discussions with teachers. We see genuine caring expressed when a friend misses school, and children wonder together whether or not that friend is sick and if they will be returning soon. There are spontaneous gifts made and delivered to friends, spontaneous taking on of “helping” roles in the classroom, without prompting from teachers. It’s wonderful when we can begin to see our intentional support of the children’s sense of connection and community bearing fruit.

When we think about our classrooms, we teachers ask ourselves  “how can I notice, encourage, and then celebrate the acts of kindness that occur among the children?”

As we strengthen our own relationships with children, we are always aware that our most powerful teaching opportunities come through the model of our own interactions in the classroom. When teachers model kindness, respectful listening, forgiveness, and caring, children join.

We are also intentional about the ways our curriculum approaches can encourage children to appreciate diverse perspectives and learn to work together. This starts with simple activities that require working together or help from a friend.

For example, in a cooking project it helps to have someone hold the bowl for you when you stir. Each small contribution of an ingredient is a necessary addition to a finished product that we can all enjoy together – an everyday example of a whole bigger and better than each of it’s parts.

We make sure that there are many opportunities for children to collaborate on their work. A large box is much easier to paint with more than one child painting, and then it is available to everyone to use together. A long string can be laced from both ends. Floor puzzles may to be complicated for one, and exciting to complete with help. All these experiences support the notion that it is worthwhile to work with other people.

There are many classroom jobs that children can help each other with. Everyone is asked to write their name on a paper, but if a friend is willing to help with some tricky letters, children can learn from each other. We all must figure out how to file our papers or put our wet paintings on the drying rack, but sometimes a person appreciates a little help, and that help often comes from other children.

Once the environment has “set the stage” for children to see themselves as potential helpers, teachers make sure that helping and caring behavior is appreciated and recognized. Whether it’s as formal as a kindness bell system, where someone can ring a bell if they notice an act of kindness, or as spontaneous as a genuine thank you when a child sees a need and takes a kind action, we appreciate these successes and encourage all the children to appreciate them too.

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