Teaching Students to Pay It Forward

The TeachThought February Blog Challenge centers on the themes of kindness and caring. This week's post: 

How can we teach students to pay kindness forward - to give expecting nothing in return?

I feel that this can be challenging--many people (adults and children alike) are motivated to do something knowing that they will get something in return. I believe that practice in performing acts of kindness (random or not) strengthens our ability to do them more often. We also need to realize that there are two different examples of "receiving nothing in return". One is a simple, but heartfelt "thank you" with no gift or reward for completing the act. The other is a random act where the recipient will never know who completed the act. Both are important.

Adults and educators need to model larger and smaller acts of kindness over and over again and students need to be aware of all parts of a act of kindness--they need to walked through the entire process and witness the intrinsic result for the person that initiated the kindness. Here is an example: I may bake cookies over the weekend and give some to a colleague of mine on Monday. I would tell my students (not so that I get complimented but to model) "I had extra cookies and I'm going to give them to Mrs. H. I hope it will make her day!" My hope that she is pleased with my act of kindness is an opportunity for my students to know that I'm intrinsically motivated by giving her cookies and wanting her to enjoy them. 

I also need to encourage students to perform their own acts of kindness. The gratitude journaling we completed at the start of every class period in November ended up motivating many of my students to perform acts of kindness themselves. As they wrote about what they were grateful for many students told the people they were grateful for how much they meant to them. (Writing this post has made me realize that we should reinstate this journaling again! I will begin on Monday.)

As educators, our plates are always full of requirements but we are never too busy for exercises that strengthen the emotional development of our students. #reflectiveteacher



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