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Random Acts of Kindness

January 10, 2013

A couple of years ago at a conference I heard Alfie Kohn say something like, “If you are a teacher and you do not believe that children are innately good, you should look for other work.” I still agree with Mr. Kohn. Teachers should believe in the goodness and the possibilities of each of their students. I do believe that all children are good, but I also believe that many adults are not modeling kindness and civility for them in our everyday lives and often not in our schools and classrooms.

I was inspired by an article in our local news media this week. Finally a “good news” story. I will admit, I shed a few tears when I read the article.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jim Stingl- In My Opinion

For these first-graders, kindness is a gift

On Thursday, when classes resumed after the holidays, David and Exavier overheard another boy saying he received no gifts for Christmas.

“He didn’t have a Christmas tree, so Santa didn’t bring him nothing,” David said.

There’s a kid’s logic to that explanation. No tree, so no gifts to go underneath. It’s easier than pondering poverty and whatever else was happening at that home.

After school at basketball practice, David and Exavier talked about it and decided what they would do.

David went home and picked a book from his shelf about the talking race car from the movie “Cars.”

“I wrapped it. I did by myself,” he said.

Exavier took a piece of construction paper and some colored pencils and drew a picture of Longfellow’s holiday student play, which the other boy had been in. “I messed up a little bit. I tried to draw everybody,” he said. This would be his gift.


Picture by Kristyna Wentz-Graff

On Friday, Exavier quietly tucked the picture inside the desk of the boy skipped by Santa. The boy found it and was happily surprised. Then David handed the wrapped book to the classmate.

It was then that the two teachers in Room 117 realized what was happening. Melony Bukosky and Jodi Hockerman had not orchestrated any of this or discussed it in class. They were witnessing what Bukosky would later describe in a letter to Principal Wendell Smith as “the most amazing random act of kindness by first-graders.”

Read the full story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

I know those teachers were so proud of their students. And I know all of you want your students to model those behaviors. But what do we do as teachers and educators to encourage and support our students?

Alfie Kohn says…

In saying that a classroom or school is a “community,” then, I mean that it is a place in which students feel cared about and are encouraged to care about each other. They experience a sense of being valued and respected; the children matter to one another and to the teacher.( p. 101)

Educators who form truly caring relationships with students are not only meeting emotional need; they are also setting a powerful example. (p. 113)

Kohn, A. (2006).  Beyond discipline:  From compliance to community (2nd ed.).  Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Marie-Nathalie Beaudoin says:

Educators are important role models of socioemotional skills. A teacher who continually shows that he or she is annoyed by a student gives the rest of the class permission to be annoyed by the student, too. The struggling student becomes caught in a downward spiral; the more he or she is the target of a teacher’s and classmates’ frustration, the more likely he or she is to be unhappy, resentful, and inattentive, which in turn, increases the likelihood that he or she will make mistakes and respond to everyone in disrespectful ways. We are all interconnected in a web of relationships.

Beaudoin, M.Educational. (2011) Promoting respectful schools: Where do we start?, Educational Leadership, 69, 40-44.

Consider the implications for your classroom. What are you doing to model kindness, generosity, respect, and civility for all of your students and colleagues?

We would love to hear about the kindness you see in your students too.


Further Reading:

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Betsey Folsom permalink
    January 11, 2013 6:21 am

    I asked my kids what was the nicest thing they had done for someone over break, and one of them said, “I have a friend who wasn’t going to get anything for Christmas, so we invited him over to our house and each of us gave him something.” Another said she’d given her mittens to her little sister because the sister had lost hers.

    It’s not only in their lives and classrooms that compassion is not being demonstrated. Look at our political leaders, watch the sarcasm on some of the most popular TV comedies. Unlike those two examples, our kids have so many legitimate reasons for anger, but when given half a chance will look for the good almost every time. We have to be the good they want to emulate.

    And if/when we show our frustration, we need to let them know that adults get angry too, but need to appologize if they’ve been out of line. Better yet, hopefully, we are controlled enough we can show them the correct way to talk about the problem, not blow up at it. They get too many explosions – verbal and physical – at home. Let’s give them a calm, safe environment in which to practice being human. ~Betsey Folsom

    • January 11, 2013 7:28 am

      What a wonderful story. Thanks for sharing your students’ kindness. I think THEY should be our role models.


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