Inside: These are the 5 most common mistakes educators make when teaching kids to be kind and more importantly, quick fix solutions.
We all have that one magical year, and if we’re lucky more than one magical year, where we have the “perfect” class. For me, it was my second year of teaching, twenty years ago.
But I still remember their names. Caleb. Tina. Dylan. Izzy. Jeremy. Nelly. Christopher.
Why was this a magical teaching year?
The stars lined up and the mix of those students made teaching feel easy and fun and beyond rewarding.
Was it because they were super gifted? Well one of them happened to be, but that’s not the real reason they were my all-time favorite class.
It’s because they were kind and sweet and thoughtful. They treated each other well and they treated me well. They worked together and cheered each other on and included each other.
Classrooms filled with kind students who are hard workers will always be > than super smart, but unkind kids.
And if educators want to recreate their magical class or create one, there are ways to focus on kindness and create a classroom community that is a true pleasure to teach.
But there are 5 common mistakes educators make when teaching kind kids.
Why is it Crucial to Teach Students to Be Kind?
Kindness begins at home. But so many of our students come to us from homes that don’t place value on kindness. Or they live in homes where their basic needs aren’t being met, so kindness can’t be the focus.
So even though teachers already have enough on their plates and are stretched too thin, it comes down to educators to teach sel curriculum and intentionally teach our students to speak and act with kindness.
But why is it essential that we teach this at school?
With all the standards teachers have to cover, is this really essential?
Do we really need to make time for it in our classrooms?
Teaching students to be kind is essential in our classrooms because children who feel ostracized, excluded, lonely, or bullied won’t be able to focus on schoolwork. And if we unintentionally create a classroom community that allows exclusion and teasing and bullying, our students won’t feel safe to raise their hands or safe to play or safe to be themselves.
In order to get our students to be able to learn what we need to teach them, we have to create a positive and safe learning environment so they can find success.
The good news is we can intentionally teach our students to speak and act with kindness more often and create a community of kind children, ready and able to learn.
Related: Creating a Kind Classroom
If our kids leave our classrooms and can read and write but laugh when others fall or tease classmates for making mistakes, then we will have not done our jobs fully.
5 Most Common Mistakes Educators Make When Teaching Kind Kids
These are the 5 most common mistakes teachers often make when teaching students to be kind.
We may know we want our students to be kind, but beyond saying “be kind,” it can be hard to know what to do to systematically teach them how to speak and act with kindness more often so kindness becomes a habit.
Here are a few mistakes to avoid, and then more importantly, solutions for quick wins you can try now.
Just like we can’t force kids to read and write, we can’t force them to be kind.
Students have to WANT to be kind and have to be READY to be kind.
Children won’t want to be kind unless they KNOW they are safe and welcomed and FEEL safe and welcomed.
2. Assuming Kids Know How to Be Kind
Some kids may instinctively know how to be kind, but most kids don’t know how.
3. Talking About Kindness Only Once
Talking about kindness can not only be a one-time event.
This is why Kindness Week does not work.
We have to be a broken record and talk about it often and encourage it often to make kindness an everyday habit.
It has to be a continuous, repetitive conversation if it’s truly important to us.
4. Forgetting to Walk the Walk
It can be easy to forget to be kind when we’re in tough situations or having a bad day, but our students are watching us.
We need to model kindness daily towards our colleagues and students.
5. Teaching Kids to be Nice
Nice kids want something in return for being nice. They’re nice when it’s convenient for them.
Kind people want to be kind because they have compassion and empathy for others and genuinely want to help someone who needs it.
Solutions to the Common Mistakes Educators Make
The good news is, there are simple solutions to all these most common mistakes educators make.