by Nyasia Burgos, AmeriCorps member serving on the DePuy Synthes Companies of Johnson & Johnson team with Orchard Gardens K-8 Pilot School

At times it can be difficult to explain to a group of 3rd-graders why it is important to be kind and respectful to one another, especially when one of their classmates borrows their favorite pencil. My way of teaching students kindness is leading by example and being kind and friendly to everyone that I come in contact with knowing that students are absorbing all that they see, and they see everything.

When I see something out of the ordinary with one of my students (disengaged with their head on the desk, for example) my first response is to go up to them and ask if everything is OK and if there is anything they want to talk about. Many times the response that I get is “I’m fine, just tired,” but there have been instances where the normally engaged student is upset due to being bullied or feeling rejected in some manner.

One day during partner work, one student named Sabrina* had her head on the desk. As I walked over to see what was wrong with her I saw another student named Alice* go to her and ask if everything was OK. Sabrina* replied, “No, but I don’t want to talk about it.” and Alice* said,

“Okay. If you want to talk about it later, I am here,” I said. Alice* is one of the students who had recently been disengaged with her head down in class and I asked if she was doing okay.

Seeing a caring attitude being reflected onto other students from their peers is one of my greatest joys. Since Alice* was once in a similar situation as Sabrina* she remembered the kindness that I once showed her when she was feeling down and showed the same concern for Sabrina*. After seeing this I realized that the best way to teach kindness and consideration for each other is by being kind yourself and paying attention to your own actions carefully. Prior to this situation I wondered when and if my kindness would encourage my students to be kind and to treat each other with the same consideration and respect. To my surprise and joy, it is being reflected in them quicker than I thought.

Many of my students have shown kindness and consideration for others early on. While I was on recess duty one day, one of my students named Lisa* came up to me and said, “Miss Burgos, make sure you have lunch!” I was overjoyed by this kind reminder. For Lisa* to be running around and then abruptly stopping to tell me to have lunch completely amazed me.

Not only do I think my students are learning from me, but I am learning from them as well. They surprise me every day. Never underestimate the kindness of a 3rd-grader.

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