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Kindness Journals

December 2015

Many of the lessons we want our children to learn will be taught over and over again through the elementary school years. Identifying shapes and colors, forming letters of the alphabet, and understanding the celebrations of our holidays are all skills that will be reinforced many times.

If children do not master these skills at three or four years of age, the lessons will be repeated for many years to come. Good values and positive character traits are formed early and reinforced less as children get older. Therefore, we spend a lot of time and are very intentional in teaching values during these early formative years of a child’s life.

Most of us have been able to clarify which values and behaviors we wish to see in our children. Our challenge is to find the right way to impart these values and encourage them in our children.

In our classrooms we take great care to point out when we observe pro-social behaviors and praise them publicly. In doing so we articulate often what our values are and which behaviors we like to see repeated.

Educators know that when we write something down, it becomes more significant to those around us. This year all of our threes and fours classes have incorporated Kindness Journals into the children’s daily lives. As teachers observe acts of kindness, they record them in the journals. Similarly, as children take note of their friends’ acts of kindness, they ask teachers to record them in the journals. When we sit down on Friday, to welcome Shabbat and celebrate together, the teacher reads the journal entries of the week and acknowledges the kindness in the room.

The acts of kindness do not include names of individual children and, therefore, promote pride for the whole group, rather than focus attention on one student. Education professor Larry Brendtro wrote, “Young people cannot develop a sense of their own value unless they have opportunities to be of value to others.” This notion has led parents of older children to encourage service to the community and mitzvah projects. Through our Kindness Journals, we have demonstrated that children can begin to appreciate the opportunity of being of value to others at a very young age. Children have been heard calling out to their teachers, “Get the Kindness Journal, he’s helping me clean up my things that spilled!” In the short time since the journals have been introduced, we already see evidence of our very young students demonstrating character traits that we can be very proud of. Imbuing children with this understanding of kindness for each other should help build a better world for all of us.

May 29,2020 /  6 Sivan 5780