Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.
Several years ago, I was teaching a night course with teachers at their school site. It made for a long day of work at the university, followed by the drive outside Portland and a three-hour class. When I finally turned into the driveway at my home, it was past 9 pm, and I was tired and hungry. Usually, my husband Jim had been home for at least an hour or two, had already eaten, so I would grab a bowl of cereal, or a handful of crackers with cheese and let my tiredness catch up with me before an early bedtime.
After class one rainy and chilly evening, I opened the door to a different greeting than I had expected. Jim met me at the door, took my soggy raincoat, and led me into the living room.
“Sit down and relax for a minute,” he said. “I’ve got something for you.” He reappeared a moment later with my favorite flannel cowgirl pajamas, warm from the dryer. “I thought you might like to get cozy before you eat.” I melted into the familiar softness.
He bustled into the kitchen and returned with a steaming bowl of homemade chicken rice soup—my favorite winter treat. I was warmed inside and out by this act of kindness, truly one of the kindest things anyone has ever done for me. I must admit, Jim also seemed warmed by this sweet and generous impulse to cheer the end of my tiring day, though he, too, had worked long and hard. I think we were both touched by that special evening and still remember it with fondness.
When giving a lecture near the end of his life, author Aldous Huxley said, “People often ask me what is the most effective technique for transforming their life. It is a little embarrassing that after years and years of research and experimentation, I have to say that the best answers is – just be a little kinder.”
We all love to be treated kindly—and what we are now learning is that the act of being kind is also beneficial in many ways. When someone is kind to us—and when we are kind to others—we get an emotional lift. We are naturally happier. And this is as true for children as it is for adults. In fact, new research is showing the many reasons to celebrate kindness at home, at school, in the workplace–everywhere. It’s simply good for us.
I was fascinated to read research conducted by Dr. Michael Tomasello that shows that the tendency to be kind is actually innate, something we have even in infancy. Children as young as 14 months old will try to help adults who are struggling with something—like opening a door with their hands full.
Even beyond making ourselves and others feel good, research on the brain is showing us that when we are kind, we create neural pathways that enhance feelings of well-being and the natural flow of those endorphins that make us feel good.
Best of all, kindness appears to be contagious, multiplying acts of kindness by inspiring others to do the same.
So why not build on this natural tendency in the classroom? I don’t mean a (heaven forbid!) “kindness curriculum,” but a more spontaneous effort to highlight kindness when it occurs and encourage sharing stories of times we have been kind, or experienced kindness. As I continue to visit schools and work with teachers, I hope to brainstorm natural ways to bring this new research on kindness into the daily culture of the classroom environment. Simply focusing on these simple acts of giving—a smile, a word of encouragement, an offer of help (or soup, or toasty pjs) can make a significant shift in our daily experiences.. Kindness can be a habit that helps all of us lead happier lives.
This week we look at conferring. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Free for All
[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links, follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ChoiceLiteracy or Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/choiceliteracy/]
Melanie Meehan shares what’s essential in conferring:
Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris are rethinking questions used in one-on-one reading conferences:
Franki Sibberson explains why sticky notes are a terrific catalyst for conversation while conferring with her third graders early in the school year:
For Members Only
Ruth Ayres gives her best advice for honing your conferring skills with this succinct list of tips for better conferences:
Jennifer Schwanke and Franki Sibberson share four perspectives on student-led conferences — teacher, principal, student, and parent:
Katherine Sokolowski explains why group conferences can be a powerful tool for building a reading community. The article includes a video of a group conference in her fifth-grade classroom where she teaches boys how to give book recommendations to each other:
Andrea Smith uses a reading conference with fourth grader Zoe to preview a book in this week’s video:
In an encore video, Sean Moore confers with second grader Mia, gently encouraging her to work from her strengths by writing about what she knows well:
That’s all for this week!