When did we all become so mean?


My classroom door. Kind of a touchstone phrase in our class.

We watched the debate last night. I also followed along on Twitter (yeah, sorry about that to anyone who follows me on Twitter!). Today I read an article on Facebook about chemical sensitivities – from which I suffer – and read the comments (I know, I know but I did…).

There were people saying that fragrance allergies are psychosomatic. (They aren’t. Sometimes I’ll come home and not know why my eyes are burning and my head aches and I can’t breathe. Then my husband will mention allergies and I’ll realise, after tracking through my day, that I did come into contact with fragrance). Or, that people who have chemical sensitivities should just stay home because we offend their desire to bathe in their perfumes. (Really?)

And I looked at my husband with sadness in my heart and asked “When did we all become so mean?”

I teach grade three. Above the door to my classroom, where the children see it every time we line up to leave the room are these words: “Choose Kindness”.

I operate my classroom expectations based on choosing to do what is kind. And, my students? They are pretty kind! Sure they have arguments – after all they are only eight years old! But, for the most part, they take care of each other and choose to do what is right and what is kind over any other options. It delights me to see a student helping another with their work, or their books and saying things such as “Here, I can carry that for you.” or “Let me get it.” There is a group of girls that love being the first ones back from washing their hands for lunch so that they can put their classmates’ lunch kits on their desks for them.

They help clean up and they take care of our space.

They are kind.

So what happens in the years between eight and adulthood that turns some people away from kindness?

Sure, life is hard. Sometimes things don’t go our way. But treating others badly or with disrespect isn’t going to change that.

I was a single parent. I graduated from university with a teaching degree only I couldn’t get a teaching position. It took me nine years to get a permanent teaching contract. During those years there were struggles. There were times when I was worried about how I was going to afford groceries, bills, housing. But through it, I didn’t disrespect others. And when people I knew had career success, I celebrated with them – even while feeling sad about my own situation. Now that I have that permanent contract (year two!) I find ways to help those who are still in the situation I came from. I look for substitute teachers that are trying to get experience to get a job. When I hear of vacancies, I let underemployed or unemployed people know about them. I do what I can to help. I’m aware that lots of other people do that as well, and for them, I’m grateful.

But so many people seem to choose to be mean instead of kind. Kindness costs nothing. And it gives you and the recipient so much.

I think it’s time for all of us to take the advice of Robert Fulghum and remember that “no matter how old you are – when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.”

Be kind.

All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten” By Robert Fulghum 

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