“Get to know them, indulge your curiosity, spend time learning about who they are as human beings; the rest will follow. Your students will remember how you made them feel, whether they felt loved and cared for by you.”
Check out this great article from the folks at Edutopia that shares what one teacher wishes she had known at the beginning of her career:
Then, please visit www.lsci.org to check out how this organization, which I have been affiliated with for 15 years, gives adults the skills they need to look beyond a student’s surface behavior and get to know the child within.
Two weeks ago, I shared with you the story of Mistake Cake–the ingenious and compassionate way that a former high school classmate of mine teaches her kids about righting wrongs and supporting family members. She also gave me permission to share this post, in which she talks more about the gift of forgiving the mistakes of others and owning our own slip ups.
It started this way. When my kids were little, and they made a creative mess, or a mistake, or they were mean and regretful, I would say the same words. These words brought calm to me, even if I was unsettled inside:
“It’s okay. You’re learning.”
The words “you’re learning” are truthful, forgiving, and full of promise.
As the kids grew older, and I made mistakes in front of them, I learned to say, “I’m sorry. I’m learning.”
Once, I scolded my daughter for using stamps as stickers. Moments after my accusatory lecture, I determined that the stamps had caught a snag and become stuck because of where I had put them. My child was bewildered. She was little and had not lied. Yet there I stood before her, shaming her for being naughty. All the while, she had done absolutely nothing wrong. Thirteen years later, I can still feel the lump of guilt that sunk in my gut when I realized that I punished her for my mistake. “I’m SO SORRY for scolding you for something that you didn’t do! I’m learning. Please forgive me!” I cried. I dropped to my knees and hugged her and kissed her passionately, mournfully.
“It’s okay Mommy. You’re learning.”
The children are now throwing the ball out in front of the house. The smallest one repeatedly overthrows it. “Whoops! I’m sorry!” she yells.
The bigger one says, “It’s okay. You’re learning.”
During April, I put my elementary school-aged students on a SECRET AGENT MISSION: to show random acts of kindness to a designated classmate, without revealing their identity. The rules were simple:
- No buying gifts
- No having a parent bake cookies
- This mission is all about simple acts of consideration that come from the heart.
- The secret agents get to reveal their identity at the end of the month.
My purpose is to show the kids how small, everyday acts can make a big difference in our school.
The good news, now that it’s reveal time: they really get it!! Here are just a few of the terrific things they have done:
“I made a picture for her.”
“I asked if she needed help carrying her stuff to the bus.”
“I told him he did a good job in Music.”
“I held the door for the Kindergarteners”
“I complimented her dress.”
“I asked him to play when he was all alone at recess.”
“I shared my snack when she forgot hers.”
It’s unanimous: these simple things have made the kids feel “great!” So much goodness around here.
No act of kindness is ever wasted.
One of the best things about Facebook is the opportunity to become better acquainted with people you only knew from a distance. This weekend, thanks to a burst of high school reunion photos, I had the chance to connect with a woman who, I am learning, is extraordinary! I wish I had known her better way back when, but here’s a slice of how she looks at life and lifts up those around her. I think I want to be her when I grow up!
Mistake Cake (by Jennie Osborne Burke)
Someone around here made a mistake.
I think it’s important to talk about mistakes. I like for the whole gang to know about it. We talk about what happened, and how we can help the person that made the mistake.
The person that made the mistake does not feel shame, or a reason to hide. Instead, they receive compassion. They know that they aren’t the first (or last) person in the family to make a mistake. They can articulate why the mistake happened, and how to prevent it from happening again. The siblings pitch in to help their loved one doesn’t make the same mistake twice.
Instead of shame or aggression, there is responsibility, ownership and a plan.
And we get to eat cake.
One of the greatest strengths of LSCI training is how it teaches adults to get to know “the inside kid.” To look beyond behavior, to take time to make a child feel heard and understood, and to ask about the thoughts and feelings. This intervention reminds me of something an LSCI-certified professional would do!
Research suggests that peers are present during nine out of every 10 incidents of bullying but intervene on behalf of victims less than 20% of the time (Hawkins, Pepler & Craig, 2001). The same study documents that when peers do step in to stop bullying behaviors, however, the episode stops within 10 seconds, more than half of the time. This holds true regardless of the specific words the bystander uses. In other words, it’s not how a young person intervenes so much as simply the fact that he does intervene, that brings about the desired change (Goldman, 2012).
Educating kids that their voice can make a difference is an empowering message with implications far beyond bullying prevention! What a gift for a young person to know that their words truly matter.
In 8 Keys to End Bullying: Strategies for Parents & Schools, I point out that in school settings, kids with high social status often make the best interveners in bullying situations because of their outsized influence on the peer group and their relative immunity from the backlash of vengeful aggressors. Their expressed disapproval of an episode of unwanted aggression sends a strong and powerful message that bullying is not cool. The news clip below is the perfect example of how a SIMPLE, SPONTANEOUS intervention by members of an 8th grade basketball team made a huge difference for a young person who was on the receiving end of cruel, public taunting…and how their spot-on words impacted their entire school community.
BE KNOWN FOR BEING KIND!
A school playground aide sees third-grader Riley grab hold of classmate Liza’s scarf and choke her with it. Riley is subsequently viewed as the bully. But is there more to the story?
What the aide hasn’t witnessed is the endless ridicule Riley has experienced from Liza and Liza’s best friend, Jada. Liza and Jada have learned they can provoke emotional outbursts from Riley — a girl who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome — through constant social exclusion. Riley is a “bully-victim,” a young person who can be aggressive toward others but who can also be a target for bullying. She serves as a reminder that the culture of bullying is far more pernicious than we might realize.
It’s clear that bullying’s nuances do not elude Signe Whitson, a social worker and school counselor who writes about Riley and others in 8 Keys to End Bullying: Strategies for Parents & Schools. In this comprehensive book, Whitson argues with passion and clear-eyed conviction for various methods by which we can create safer and healthier learning environments.
Refreshingly, Whitson doesn’t build her case on untested anti-bullying advice, but instead takes a sledgehammer to many long-held myths by drawing upon real research. For example, Whitson points out, children are frequently told to ignore verbal bullying, but the literature shows this to be one of the least effective methods available. And bullies are often not driven by insecurity, as is commonly portrayed in the movies, but by a drive to increase their social status, Whitson writes.
From Whitson’s realistic understanding of student dynamics comes a practical set of strategies to reduce bullying in schools. Click here to read more about these strategies and see the full review from PsychCentral.
If you’ve ever attended any of my Bullying Prevention presentations, you know I believe that it’s the everyday acts of kindness and humanity that have a bigger impact on bringing an end to bullying than any time-consuming, finger-wagging, program or policy. Here’s a great example of one student’s “One Thing” that made all of the difference for him and for his school:
Looking for a truly useful gift for your child’s teacher or counselor? Check out my books, filled with ready-to-use social-emotional lessons and information about improving school culture in order to bring an end to bullying! Available with FAST SHIPPING from amazon.com!