The Meaning of Kindness- In First Grade

The head teacher I work with in our first grade class was absent Tuesday, so I took her place as the substitute. Our class has 18 boys, all between the ages of 6 and 7. I was prepared with plenty of worksheets, math, handwriting practice exercises, 2 books by our Author study, Kevin Henkes. (who if you are not familiar with, writes wonderful stories using mice as the main characters, teaching a subtle lesson with each story.) Also included during “snack & chat” was a discussion about kindness and what kindness and being kind means. Here were the thoughts my boys shared when I asked what being kind means:


Being friendly

Giving a hug if someone is sad


Being polite


Welcoming someone who is new

Visiting someone who is sick

Feeding animals

Playing with someone who is alone

Protecting the earth -being kind to it. (yes, I was blown away by that one)

Seems to me they’ve got it right. Words to live by.





Zen and the Art of Teaching Second Grade

School started this past week and my mornings are spent in a 2nd grade boys class. The teacher is male, not female. For background, last year my mornings were spent in a 1st grade boys class with a female teacher who is one of the most miserable people I have ever encountered. The daily level of tension was sky high, her meanness knew no bounds, her inability to see the world in nothing but black and white with no shades of grey, dumbfounding. The stars were aligned though, and it turned out for this school year there would only be two 1st grade classes not 3, and so one of the teachers would have to go. I was very vocal with the administration about what was going on in the classroom, so at the end of last year she was told she was out. I then moved to 2nd grade (along with some of the boys I had in 1st)

The 2nd grade classroom is in complete contrast to my experience last year. The teacher speaks softly and calmly. He is caring and understanding while at the same time sets limits. In 4 days time I have watched how he was able to get a child who was completely disconnected, to the point of laying across his desk and under it, to participating and answering questions. His mother told the teacher Thursday night at Back to School Night, that her son told her, “My teacher thinks I am smart, he likes my answers.” How did this occur? Because he knows that by building up a child and encouraging him in small ways, you can reap the benefits. By being consistent without yelling and punishing you can get results. By being kind and understanding and considering the child, his feelings, who he is, you can hone into his needs and reach him. By being flexible and not sweating the small stuff things can work out.

I thanked him on Friday for a beautiful week- filled with positivity, calm and just an all around “zen” feel. What a difference a year makes and what a great example of someone to learn from and emulate.