Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Lesson on Kindness

We finally made it back to school today! We had a professional development day on Monday and a work day on Tuesday. We were supposed to have students yesterday, but it was stinkin' cold (thank you Iowa winters...) so we ended up with a cold day. I was more than ready to get back to my students today.

As most teachers do, I typically spend the first couple of days back from Christmas break reviewing rules and procedures in order to lay the groundwork for a successful second half to the year. This year, I wanted to add in some goal setting to give us a direction. I began by talking about resolutions and about why people make resolutions. I shared with them that one of my resolutions is to show kindness to as many people as possible. To help illustrate why kindness is important to me, I read them one of my favorite books, Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson. I discovered this book last year when I was in the midst of teaching a series of character lessons to my challenging kindergarten class. It is easily one of the most powerful books I've ever read to children.

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In this incredible story, Maya moves to a new school. The girls at this new school immediately notice that Maya isn't like them. She wears secondhand clothes and isn't interested in the same things they are. Because of this, the girls decide to exclude her. When their teacher does a lesson on kindness in which she describes the ripple effect of kindness, Chloe (the main character) realizes how she has been treating Maya and vows to change. Unfortunately, Maya moves away and Chloe never gets the chance to repair their relationship.

As I read the story, stopping occasionally to discuss what was happening, my students had all kinds of insightful thoughts about what was happening. When we finished the book, I asked the question, "Can you ever take back your hurtful actions?" At first my students said yes, but as we talked a little more, they came to the realization that no matter what we do to fix the situation we can never take back the mean things we do. This is why kindness is so important. I could feel this sinking in for my students. It has been quite a while since they have been that quiet after reading a book. It was a powerful moment for us and a great way to begin a new year!

We followed that up with setting some reading goals and writing a rough draft of a blog post about our goals for 2015. Their goals ranged from getting better at football to being a better friend to getting better at math. I chuckled at some of them and was inspired by others. All in all, I think we're all set to go for another semester!

Now, if only we could just get ourselves back to school we'd really be set. We got out early today due to blizzard-like conditions and we're already delayed two hours tomorrow. Once again, gotta love these Iowa winters...

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