Teaching Kindness

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She opens her mouth in wisdom,
And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. Proverbs 31:26

I started teaching fifth grade about ten years ago.  SOLs, Virginia’s testing standards, were well in place at that time.  We understood that they would be around for a while.  Any good teacher learned them, gathered materials, and taught his or her heart out.

The differences back then, I suppose, were in our budgets.  We had numerous field trips, new textbooks every few years, new educational materials.  Each year computers were added and SMARTboards placed in every room.  Technology upgrades were the norm.

Today is a different story. Our schools do not have money to repair technology that breaks.  Our students don’t have money for school supplies.  I spend about thirty dollars a week buying snacks for my students who try to go five or six hours without eating everyday.  Our lunch is late; their breakfast is early.  Their parents cannot afford the snacks.

In addition to the money problems, the SOLs have increased in their difficulty. The state calls it an increase in “rigor!”  My kids call it torture.  We have so much to cover in a year that fun activities, such as field trips, explorations, and athletic events, are all pushed to the side.

In the midst of this educational turmoil, we teachers are called to teach kindness.  For some of my students, my model of kindness may be the only one they see that day.  Their lives at school may be busy, but their home lives are often violent and scary.

When I decided to become a teacher, I underestimated the amount of time I would spend each day teaching social skills.  I often work with small groups to work through their problems.  For most students who struggle with their behavior, I have to teach them how to approach others with kindness.

The Proverbs 31 woman taught kindness.  I bet she taught her own children how to be kind.  She probably led by example, not just with her rules.  Many teachers, myself included, would benefit from remembering the importance of kindness.

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