I often tell my pre-kindergarten students that if I teach them nothing else during their time in my classroom, they will learn to be kind to one another. Yes, watching them read and write their first word brings tears to my eyes. Hearing them recall what we have learned about fractions and states of matter gives me an immeasurable sense of pride, and tomorrow, when we celebrate the 100th day of school by counting all the way to 100 for the first time, I will get chills just as I did with last year’s class.
But today my heart was filled with a job well done, and it reminded me of my blog from yesterday.
Part of the agenda for our Social Science lesson today was to review what children recall thus far from our manners curriculum. I asked the very vague, open-ended question, “what do we remember as being important from this book about our manners?” The first answer, a single word, came out of two mouths simultaneously . . .
The room became silent as the rest of the class also realized that this was the end-all, be-all of answers, the one word that encompassed all the ideas they were about to offer. They all get it.
I was silent for a moment as well. No, this is not even close to the biggest, most mature word I have heard them use, but it could possibly be the most important. I tested the waters (and my luck) by asking for a definition of the word and examples of the concept.
I got what I asked for . . . .
“Be kind to others.”
“Listen to your friends’ words.”
“Don’t be a bully.”
“Be a bucket-filler, not a bucket-dipper.” (See the ingenious book, Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud; I am currently working my way through the adult version.)
“Be good to yourself.”
“Use your own words.”
“Listen to your teachers.”
“Get along with each other.”
“Love each other.”
These few short phrases from a group of four-year-olds made me realize they could have defined not only “respect,” but the word “tolerance” as well, far better than I attempted to do in yesterday’s write. At the very heart of tolerance is respect. Respect for others, respect for yourself, respect for the relationships and bonds between us all. Not a single child mentioned politics, religious beliefs, or personal opinion, yet each theorized that we should listen to one another, work together as one, stand up for ourselves, and be kind to one another. That simple.
No academic assessment is needed to tell me that yes indeed, these kids get it.