Why We Aren’t Kind: Bullies and Empathy

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There are days, when even the kindest folks falter. There are days, when we make mistakes and stray from our best selves, maybe with a snarky remark, unkind words, or with gossip and criticism. We all make mistakes and by taking responsibility for our actions and making amends we can move forward and start again.

Sometimes however we run into folks who are unkind more often than they are kind. Sometimes we find ourselves face to face with someone who treats us unfairly with an aim to hurt us. We ask ourselves, why do they want to cause me pain? What did I do? The answer is that it’s really not about you. It’s about them, and only about them.

I believe we are born kind, and we learn hate. With that being said it’s hugely important to remember that a bully has most likely been bullied by someone else. They learned to do it somewhere, from someone. It’s not an excuse for their behavior but it’s an explanation.

We can teach our children to respond to unkindness with empathy and action. We do not need to let people treat us unkindly, but we can still address the situation with empathy, knowing that the bully is in pain too even if they are unaware of it.

The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral,
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar,
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.
Through violence you may murder the hater,
but you do not murder hate.
In fact, violence merely increases hate.
So it goes.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The joy of learning. Together. 

Nora

Books That Teach Kindness

As promised I have compiled a few books that teach kindness. Although there are many great books out there, for the purpose of brevity I will list four. The first two books are suggestions for lower elementary readers, while the second two are for an older audience of young readers.

  1. “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein.

the giving tree

A true classic for young readers. I love its focus on empathy and find my heart breaking a little for the giving tree every time I read it. The story reminds young readers to be grateful for the support they have, and to return love and kindness.

  1. “Have you Filled a Bucket Today?” By Carol McCloud

bucket filler

This book uses the metaphor of filling up a bucket with your love, kindness, and positive actions. It encourages loving behavior by illustrating how our actions and words either “fill up” or “empty” our buckets.

  1. The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

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Although perhaps above the reading level of younger children, it is accessible to them by reading aloud with an adult. The characters in “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe” and particularly relatable to children and the book has many lessons on kindness and navigating sibling relationships.

  1. “Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain

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A more complex look into friendship, freedom and systemic oppression. It asks readers to think about how we as a part of a community within a broader society, show either love and kindness, or hate and subjugation. Because the story touches on a handful or sensitive (albeit very important issues) I suggest this story be saved for middle and high school readers.

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”

-Mark Twain

The joy of learning. Together. 

Nora

Audiobooks, Empathetic Teaching and Running

What I’m Reading:  I’m currently listening to an audiobook version of “Introvert Power” by Laurie Helgoe, PhD. This is a great book for both introverts and extroverts because it clears up common misconceptions about what both introversion and extroversion really are. For example, I am an introvert, which does not mean that I don’t like people. After all, my chosen profession involves being actively engaged with people much of my waking time. In fact, I really love people and I love being with people. I just need alone time to recharge and collect my thoughts. Additionally, as an educator I also appreciate how the book gives insight into how my introverted students might have different avenues of learning than my extroverted students, and it inspired ideas of how to target each type.

introvertpower

Building Confident Learners: Meet learners where they are. Pay attention to the student’s emotional and physical state and adjust your expectations accordingly. Focus on their health status, their sleep quota, and what’s happening in their lives both inside and outside of school that might affect their overall ability to perform academically.

What Gives Me Joy: Running. I’ve been enjoying running outside now that being outside doesn’t immediately turn me into a human sweat-ball. For this native Wisconsinite, the temperatures of SC have verged on traumatic but I will not give up! I’ve especially enjoyed running on the Mary Black Trail, more commonly called the Rail Trail, in Spartanburg. Everyone waves or smiles when I pass them on my runs, which, when I think about it, really shows how welcoming the community is considering how overheated and disheveled I am. Kudos to the community of Spartanburg for their welcoming nature!

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Me in Alaska (it’s a little colder there), doing a celebratory jump during a run.

The joy of learning. Together.

Nora