By Cameron Crane
I remember my first day of fifth grade like it was yesterday. I had just transferred to a new school, and had an overwhelming blend of anxiety and excitement. Everything went perfectly in the morning: I didn’t mess up when I was introducing myself to the class, I got assigned to a table with people I could envision befriending, and I got the answer right the first time I was ever called on. Yes, the day was going perfectly for me, but that wasn’t the case for my little brother, who was entering his first day of first grade. It was around noon when I got pulled out of class to go comfort my brother, who had just been punched in the stomach by a fourth-grader on the playground.
I recall the anger and frustration I felt as I marched to the playground. I gave my brother a comforting hug, and asked him to point out the bully who had the nerve to hit him. I studied the culprit from head to toe, tempted to confront him and let him know that he should pick on somebody his own size – like me for starters. Luckily, the situation was already being handled by Yard Duty, and I was prevented from reacting … or overreacting.
As I sat there consoling my brother, we were approached by another first grader. Apparently, he was the one who had notified the adults about the situation. He sat down next to my brother, and placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder, “I’m really sorry about that, Jack. I hope you aren’t hurt too much.”
It turned out that the fourth-grader who had punched my brother was notorious for being problematic on the playground. He was promptly sent to the principal's office, and sent home from school. The first-grader who had approached us to apologize was his younger brother. He and my brother became instant friends.
This story is not an unusual one. It seems that every day we hear about a new instance of bullying. But how often do we actually hear about people like that first-grader? Do we have enough systems in place that recognize acts of kindness on the playground, or is it the bullies that seem to get all the attention?
Luckily, many schools do have programs like “Character Cards”, which can be given out as recognition to children exhibiting acts of kindness, generosity, etc. However, the power to give out these cards typically lies in the hands of teachers, who may not be around to witness these acts. In my opinion, it would be wonderful to give children the opportunity to publically recognize their peers. I know that had I been given the opportunity, I would have loved to thank that first-grader with a Character Card.
Even without a system in place, there are many great ways to recognize acts of kindness. I recommend having a conversation with your children about thanking their peers for their positive actions, the same way we have asked them not to let bullying go unnoticed.
Prompt: Try this today! Choose two classmates and tell each of them something good that you admire about them. Ask them to pass it on by doing the same for someone else.
Question: Is kindness an inherent trait, or is it a learned behavior?
Image Credit: govandc.com, smileyme.com