Our seventh-grade team chose ‘kindness’ as a year-long theme this year. We planned a variety of short and long-term activities across all content areas to promote kindness. Some of them have been very successful in my opinion, some of them not-so-much, but that will happen. Not every great idea works out in the end.
We are now approaching the half-way mark of the year and I have been thinking about whether this focus on ‘kindness’ has worked. Have our students embraced kindness? As teachers have we embraced kindness? Is our large seventh-grade community kinder?
It is too early for me to clearly see a huge shift, but small ones are happening. I notice students offering support to each other in the classroom without prompting. I see a lot more smiling faces. I see more students with a welcoming stance in my room and in the halls.
However, I keep coming back to the question of “Have I embraced kindness?” I think I have because it is in my nature to be kind. However, I am struggling to model kindness. It is not like I am harsh or mean to students, but I think I am modeling nice more effectively than kind.
I am learning it easy to model niceness, but more difficult to model kindness. I greet people by name, ask them questions, listen well, and work to be positive in my language. However, all of those concepts fall into what I perceive as being nice, not necessarily being kind.
I completely understand the world, especially the world of schooling, needs a great deal of nice. We need to acknowledge others, we need to offer a smile or heartfelt greeting, we need our ‘please and thank yous’, and we need to be quiet instead of saying something awful. Nice is not bad at all, but I don’t think it is enough because we can be on autopilot and be nice.
However, I think we need the grace of kindness much more than we need niceties.
For me, kindness is more intentionally active and much more personal. Kindness is showing acceptance and giving lots of support. Kindness is much more intrinsically motived. It is an act of giving with nothing expected in return. Kindness can also mean being strong enough to deal with difficulties.
As I am working through this year of ‘kind’ with my seventh-grade friends, I have been working on being more openly kind. And that is where I am struggling. When I check in on a colleague who has been ill, I am doing that not in full view of my students. When I have a quiet conversation with a student about a struggle she might be dealing with it is quiet on purpose and not in front of the entires class. When a student says something that is awful to another, how do I intervene without being awful myself?
I am working and thinking and working some more on how to model kindness, not just niceness. The other night I heard the phrase, “fiercely kind” I am fascinated by this because I think it hits at the essence of my thoughts about the differences between nice and kind. To be kind you also need to be ready to be fierce.
I will continue to be nice, but I need to look for ways to be more fiercely kind.