“Years from now, I won’t remember you for the grade you got in my class. I will remember you for how you treated others.” I began Friday’s class with a lecture on kindness. My seventh grade students were eager to find out where their new seats were in my classroom, which were rearranged into tables of six desks. Before I presented students with their new seats, I told them that I didn’t want them to express disappointment in any way. I reminded students that we all know what it’s like to feel left out or feel unwanted in a group. I reminded students that respect and kindness toward one another is the most important rule in my classroom. I warned students that as they worked with their group members at their new table, if I saw any unkind behaviors, the entire group would have a lunch detention with me so we could have lunch together and practice being kind. I wish I could have filmed the looks on their faces when I stated this consequence. Two groups had lunch detention with me that day. I sat with each group for part of the lunch period, so we could talk about what happened and share our feelings. It felt like I was leading a group therapy session. Since that day, I have seen those two groups of students get along much better. I’m proud to say that I think my kindness lecture had a big impact on my students. I like to think that it will be something they remember when they think of my class years from now.
I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about kindness lately and how our world needs more of it. Sometimes we are unkind to others unintentionally. I remember one particular day I was really frustrated by my sister’s hurt feelings, because I had not intended to hurt her. I expressed that I was frustrated with her for being upset when I hadn’t meant to upset her, but I was actually disappointed in myself for hurting someone I love.
It takes vulnerability to let someone know that their words or actions were unkind. Too often we bottle up our emotions and carry the burden of hurt feelings alone. We have a miscommunication with someone and move on without acknowledging our feelings. A friend says something to us and we spend hours wondering what he/she meant, instead of simply asking. We are scared of being vulnerable. We want to come off as tough and strong. We are told to develop thick skin if we show that we are “too sensitive.”
I wish we showed others how we really felt more often. I wish we were more vulnerable as a society. I think if we were, our world would be a better place. Thanks, Brené Brown, for causing me to think so much about vulnerability. If you have no idea who Brené Brown is, please listen to her TED Talk and read her books.
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” – Brené Brown