It’s the beginning of the school year, and the time to establish a climate for your classroom, with your children. On the very first day of school, we played and then reflected about why we played. We’ve moved on to solving math puzzlers and thinking about how we explain our thinking to establishing a writer’s life during our writer’s workshop. We are inquiring into science and asking questions–a lot of them.
And we’re talking about kindness.
We are reading the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio, and it’s so sweetly intense that I’m trying to hold it together with the kids. It’s about a boy, named August, who has a severe facial deformity. He’s 10, and he’s in school for the first time in 5th grade. He encounters in school, well, what you imagine you might face in school when you look like August. A lot of whispers, sideway looks, avoidances, bullying. In our reading today, he walks in on a “friend” talking about how he’s only hanging out with him because the teacher wanted him to.I could hardly read it because it broke my heart.
The kids relate. Many have been in situations where they’ve been teased, left out. They’re not like August, but it’s easy to relate to him as a kid and adult.
In fact, today, I had a girl come in and tell me strongly that a group of boys wouldn’t stop teasing her. One of the boys was in my class, so I brought them in the hall and listened while she told him strongly that she didn’t like the teasing, and she wanted him to stop. She was forceful. She looked him straight in the eye. There was no mistaking that she meant what she said.We named what she said he did–bullying–and that if he kept it up, we would need to follow up. He nodded, hopefully listening.
Bullying is still going to go on, but it seems that the more we can talk about kindness, caring and keep an open conversation in the classroom where we are heard, it’s a start…It’s what I want for my students–not to be great, not to always succeed or have all the answers, but to choose kind.
If you have the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind. (A quote by Dr. Wayne Dyer, discussed in the book Wonder)