In preparation for a project, we are reusing old tri-fold boards for our displays, so that involves recycling the old information and leaving a paper shrapnel trail to the blue bin! (I’m sure the janitor can’t wait until we are done!) But the other day, staying after the noon bell had rung, I saw two students looking at the pile that they had just ripped off and discussing it. Try to picture it: two 12 year olds sifting through a Biology 20 project on the ethics of parental selection in genetic modification in their children. Not easy concepts!
As I was listening in, they asked me to clarify a chart. Knowing that it was completely on its own and taken out of context, we gave it shot. Essentially, the statistics listed the traits that parents felt were ethically acceptable to genetically change in their child, and the ones that they felt were not. Interestingly, intelligence and health made the top of both lists, so that took a bit of mental wrangling to explain, even on my part! Near the bottom of the ethically UNACCEPTABLE list was kindness, and that’s when they came up with something absolutely mind-blowing.
It went somewhat like this: Actually, I think if I could change one thing, I’d change kindness. Because if your child is kind, then it affects all the other ones. If you are kind, then you see people for who they are, and not just their attractiveness. You don’t worry about weight, because you know that everyone is different. And if you are kind, you value intelligence and work hard. Kindness affects everything except health.
While over half of these surveyed parents would make their kids smarter or healthier, this student took the least-chosen trait and made a compelling argument on how it would be most beneficial to that child’s life. And she’s right. I don’t have to scan far in my twitter feed to find a plethora of information, research, and straight-up-inspirational quotes that address the importance of kindness.
I think this last one speaks to me the most. I’m pretty self-aware of who I am and my teaching and learning styles, and being kind and treating people in an honest and respectful manner is NOT a weakness. In fact, when people use their voice to insult and humiliate, that speaks to their weaknesses and insecurities, not mine. But I admit, it took me much too long to get there.
So as I spent the next day really pondering their response, I think they were wrong in one respect: kindness absolutely affects your health too. The old adage ‘it’s better to give than receive’ has scientifically been proven. It’s the reason for the success of the WE Day movement. And that’s why I try to get my students involved in small projects whenever they pop up throughout the year, because it feels good to do good. The flip side is that when you don’t choose kindness, you default to a myriad of negative responses like resentment, hostility, and bitterness. Without a doubt, they take their toll. “’You’re saying that the way you talk or don’t talk affects your body? It could kill you?’ The short answer is yes. The longer answer suggests that the negative feelings we hold in, the emotional pain we suffer, and the constant battering we endure as we stumble our way through unhealthy conversations slowly eat away at our health.” (Crucial Conversations) It took me too long to get there too.
Since this whole post has been other people’s thoughts, I’ll end with one more from Danny Steele: “We all need to vent from time to time…including me. But I hope my venting never turns into a pattern of complaining. I hope I’m never responsible for bringing negative energy into the school. I hope I never wallow in self-pity. I hope I always keep things in perspective.”
I hope that for me too.
Kiitos-Hiy Hiy-Thanks for reading!
Perpetual amateur. Lifelong learner. Vice-Principal. Teacher. Musician. Mom. Annnnd if you're reading this, then I'm still a blogger.