By: Jackie Lema of Redwing Pond House Preschool
How can a preschool teacher instill a sense of kindness in the classroom? Can a few hours a day, two to five times a week, create a true understanding of the concept? What creates a room full of preschoolers that are truly kind and invested in others happiness and comfort? This has been one of my primary goals every September with each new group of three and four year olds that enter my classroom for the first time.
A recent event in my classroom was one of the most inspiring and incredible examples of kindness shared by my children. A new student was having a difficult time saying goodbye to Mom each day. It began with long hugs and a sad face, but by the third or fourth day, she became terribly sad, falling into my arms crying. Within seconds we were surrounded by every child in the classroom, concern washed over their faces, as they asked what had happened to their friend. I explained, “She is feeling sad that she had to say goodbye to her Mommy, and is missing her”. The group erupted in comments, concerns, and supportive ideas; “I missed my Mommy once, and cried too, but the Mommies always come back!”, “I feel sad when I say goodbye to my Grandma, but I know the teachers will take care of me.”, I look at my family picture when I am missing my Mommy and Daddy at school.”, “I draw a picture for my Mom when I am missing her, and that makes her really happy!”....
This continued for several minutes, and I listened in awe at the outpouring of love these preschoolers were showing for their new classmate. It was an unprompted group effort to comfort and welcome their new friend. These children called upon their own fears and emotions and shared how they cope with difficult separations. It was beautiful, and soon, their new friend was happily working with her friends drawing a picture for her Mom.
This early exposure to kindness and compassion can help instill kindness as part of a child. Children are innate helpers; they are eager to work alongside you, and are incredibly proud to contribute to whatever the group is working on. My role as a teacher is to model the behavior I hope to see in the children, provide them with many opportunities to express kindness, and acknowledge their efforts. The teachers and I have a great respect for every child as well as each other, and through awareness, patience, support and modeling, we offer and encourage kindness in every aspect of our days at school. Preschool age children are often experiencing their first opportunity participating in a group that is not family. Being in a group can be challenging at any age, and with no prior experience, new challenges can occur constantly for them. Inspiring self-confidence, individuality, and kindness, while providing love, security, and support is an important task. Patiently taking a few extra moments to allow a child to describe an event and play a part in solving a problem is a wonderful opportunity to model and encourage a kind and thoughtful resolution to most situations.
Throughout our days, we ask the children how they are feeling, how do they think their friend is feeling? What might make this feel better for you both? Is there something I can do to help you right now? What could we do differently next time to help everyone feel good? We sit with the children and patiently work together to help resolve each issue. We encourage them to involve different friends in play, and choose new partners to hold hands with on our hikes, ask a friend who is ‘not looking busy right now’ to work together on a painting, or help with a puzzle. These little moments and gestures help the children to think about others and see how they can help them to feel loved and supported.
In this busy world, the influence of random acts of kindness is truly wonderful, yet teaching kindness as a way of living makes for a beautiful little person...and could potentially make for a kinder world.
Jackie Lema has devoted her life to working with preschoolers and their families, with her most recent adventure being the opening of a nature based preschool, The Redwing Pond House, on the property of the Ansonia Nature Center in Connecticut. The Pond House is a special place, where Jackie's dedication to high quality early education and love of nature coincide beautifully. She enjoys time outside of the classroom as a professional photographer, gardener, animal lover, and the proud mom of an incredibly kind teenage daughter.
Kinder by the Child Project
This unique series of personal stories will take a look at how we teach our children about kindness and why as parents we see the value in leading a life full of generosity and consideration.
I am mom to three boys (one with several life-threatening food allergies) who will never own too many picture books or create Pinterest-worthy snacks. Simply Chrissy K is a place to find helpful tips on parenting that stem from my work with families and design ideas based on our adventures building a home from the ground up.