I visited a 3rd grade classroom this school year and led an interactive conversation with the class about kindness. I asked the following questions of the whole class.
What is kindness?
How can you tell when someone needs your kindness and compassion?
When is it most difficult to be kind? What gets in the way, sometimes, of being kind?
Does kindness always “work?” Does it immediately make the other person feel better, or change their mood? If it doesn’t work right away, should we still do it?
The class was very responsive and had many great answers. They spoke about being able to see when someone needs kindness and compassion, even when they are not asking for it with their words. A girl mentioned that “…if someone is new to the school, shy, or not included in games on the playground, kindness can help. “
I asked, “When is it hardest to be kind?” A boy looked at another boy then said, “…it’s hard to be kind when you’re mad at someone, or someone has been mean to you.” Many children in the class agreed. One if the kids said that it’s more difficult for her to be kind when she’s hungry. The students raised their hands and were eager to share answers about why we try to be kind, even though it doesn’t always “work” right away.
I shared a recent experience when I took a “kindness risk” and gave a BLT sandwich to a man who looked like he needed it, even though he wasn’t asking for it. A girl in the class said that she had also “taken a risk and was kind even though I wasn’t really sure if I was doing the right thing.” We made a new term together today, “Kindness Risk.”
We have known for centuries that “kindness is good for your health.” Kindness and compassion is good for the people to whom we are kind, and it turns out, it’s good for our health too.
Together, the 3rd class and I agreed to make a “secret plan for kindness.” “…think of someone who could use your kindness and compassion, and what you might do.” We talked about how little things can make a difference. This reminded me of something that I heard in Japanese when I lived in Tokyo, Japan... “little things are big.”
I asked that the students not share with others who the intended person is, and to keep their kindness plan a secret for now. It’s fine of course, to share their plan with parents and guardians. Recess was coming up right after this mini-presentation, so there was going to be a chance to try some things out.
The teacher and the parent volunteer were warm and receptive. We learned a lot from the 3rd graders.