Kindness Matters

Every year I do an anti-bullying unit. Sometimes I find relevant articles about teens who have been bullied, sometimes I show YouTube videos about bullying, a few times I've shown the film Bowling for Columbine because it discusses the possibility that the boys who did the shooting were picked on and bulled in high school. Many people teach anti-bullying units in October and just last year I learned about Pink Shirt Day which is in February.

Certain books that I've taught also lend themselves to discussing bullying in school. One book that I've taught 8 or 9 times is Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. In the young adult novel Speak the main character Melinda is bullied because she called the police at a party and a lot of people got in trouble for underage drinking. The novel traces Melinda through her entire freshman year and it deals with not just bullying but depression, rape and suicide as well. Another popular book that deals with bullying in schools is the novel Wonder by R.J. Palacio. I haven't had a chance to teach this novel yet but I'm looking forward to it. I think it will bring up meaningful classroom discussion.

Whenever I start discussing bullying in school I always have one student (or more) that says, "bullying doesn't happen in this school." Sadly they're wrong and I can list a few examples I've witnessed over the years.

Kids have always been cruel but it's gotten progressively worse with technology and social media. When I was in high school I remember seeing a senior knock some books out of the hands of a 9th grader. I heard some name calling but it wasn't anything horrible. I don't remember what year it was but I remember in the beginning of my career there were two seniors that broke up and apparently the girl had texted the boy a naked photo. He printed out many copies of the picture and posted them all over school with some words I won't be using in my blog but I'm sure your imagination can fill in the blanks. Her parents pressed charges and it would have been worse if they both hadn't been 18. The girl ended up transferring to another school to finish her last few months of high school. In NYC there are so many schools it's easy to transfer.

The 2010-2011 school year was the worst school year for cyberbullying that I ever witnessed in my career. A group of students (no one knows how many) started a Facebook group where students were prompted to post pictures and make fun of people in the school. Many girls were bad-mouthed for being easy (that's not the word they used) and other people were called ugly, gay, fat, etc. I'm sure there was more, I never saw the page myself. What I do remember is that there were 26 fights in my school in one month because of that Facebook group.

The worst of these fights happened right before Christmas Break and resulted in a security guard and an assistant principal getting injured. I had students arrested during that fight. I didn't witness it because I was teaching when we went into lockdown. The principal involved the police and they were able to trace the computer where the Facebook group was created. That one student took the blame for everything even though everyone knew it was more than one person that created that group. He was just the unlucky one whose computer was used.

Two years ago a similar incident happened on Instagram. One of my students created an account and she posted pictures of people in the school making fun of them. She was suspended for about a month but I don't think her punishment was harsh enough. I saw some of the printouts and she wrote some awful things and encouraged others to do the same.

How can we as teachers foster kindness in our classroom? We can show films, read books, read articles and hold discussions. The truth of the matter is, we have to lead by example. I go out of my way to be nice to everyone even if they're mean to me. I work in a poor area and many of these kids view kindness as a weak trait. I find that sad but I'm not changing who I am. I will always treat others how I want to be treated.

I created my Kindness Quotes Task Cards so that I could force students to think critically and analyze an array of quotes about being a kind person. I hope that these quotes foster a positive learning environment. I hope that the discussions that come out as a result of these task cards are meaningful. I've always enjoyed using quotes in my classroom.

The Kindness Quotes Task Cards are free in my TpT store.



I know that many teens today face bigger challenges than my generation did. We have to do everything in our power to try to lead them down the right path. Hopefully we can show them being kind isn't a sign of weakness and they should choose kindness.






Thank you The ELA Buffet and Desktop Learning Adventures for hosting this blog hop.



21 comments:

  1. I love your kindness quotes task cards. This is such an important lesson to teach our students!

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    1. Thank you so much. The world needs more kindness.

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  2. What a great collection of quotes, Tammy. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. You're welcome. I'm glad you like them.

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  3. Excellent Tammy! I am so happy to be able to team up with you for such a wonderful blog hop. Thank you - especially for getting me involved.

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    1. You're welcome. We need to collaborate more.

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  4. I really enjoyed teaching "Speak" in the past. You are so right--it's very important to be aware of bullying and attempt to foster empathy in our students. You're task cards will be helpful with that. Thank you!

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    1. You're welcome. I love young adult books like Speak because it always brings up great discussion.

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  6. I love your kindness task cards, Tammy! You have selected some great quotes for students to read and interpret. I can't wait to use these! I will definitely be sharing this blog post with the other teachers at my school! :)

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  7. Sadly, I agree that social media certainly has increased the prevalence of bullying. Thus, it's important for teachers to help students understand digital citizenship. Thanks for the quotes!

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    1. Yes we definitely have our jobs cut out for us with social media taking over their lives. You're welcome. I'm glad you like the quotes.

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  8. Your stories are incredible - and incredibly sad. I know what you mean about some students seeing kindness as a weakness. I have experienced that too but yet I persevered like you to show that kindness is a good thing and even a strength. I am sure these task cards will help me to continually reinforce that message. Thank you!

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    1. You're welcome. I'm sure we all have our "battle" stories. It's not an easy job.

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  9. I love that this resource asks students to analyze, state their opinion, discuss, and listen to others. These task cards are now part of my Kindness unit. Thank you so much for creating such a useful resource!

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    1. You're welcome. Thank you for the compliments.

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  10. My friend had one of the Columbine boys in her 6th grade classroom. I can't speak as to whether or not he was bullied in elementary school (chances are good that he was), but he definitely had some serious issues that she reported in his file. Teachers are expected to deal with students' mental heath and, frankly, we're really not trained for that. I definitely agree that social media has an impact on these issues. I can't even imagine how difficult it is to try to teach in HS with all that going on.

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    1. It's incredibly hard to be a teacher nowadays. I usually have at least 150 students and many of them have troubled lives but you may or may not see that in the 45 minutes a day you spend with them. We have to do the best we can and you're right it's not something that college prepared us for.

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  11. Social media makes bullying so easy now, as your stories sadly show. But reinforcing kindness, as with your cards, will surely help. Thank you for sharing your resource!

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    1. You're welcome. I hope they're useful.

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