Six Essential Acts of Kindness

Kindness is an essential part of teaching life. According to Fred Rogers, “There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.”

I grew up watching the television program, Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. What I learned most from watching his program is not what he said or did, but more from what he didn’t say. It was his calm voice, gentle demeanor, and his ability to wonder right alongside his audience that caused the greatest impact. His kindness made a significant impact. In an interview with Charlie Rose, Fred Rogers shared that he kept a plaque inside his office that read, “what is essential is invisible to the eye.” It is what he believed and what I learned was an essential part of his work with children and adults.

As teachers, kindness is often what we pull on to hold patience close, wait for students to be ready to move forward when they write, and what often reminds us what it was like to be a child, so that we are thoughtful with our words and actions. It is important for building relationships, classroom culture, writing communities, and much more. As fellow co-author, Lanny Ball, shared, kindness is an intangible, “vital for success in workshop teaching.” Kindness is a simple yet powerful act that can shift a classroom environment.  

In my experience with childhood, having my own children, and teaching children, I have learned the essentialness of kindness and its significant impact on our lives. I came to understand kindness, not only as a basic human skill, but as an important part of thriving classrooms. The practice of kindness can open greater opportunities for learning.   

Two Ways Kindness Can Impact Learning

1. Electromagnetic field of the heart – According to Enlighten Up, by Lynell Burmark & Lou Fournier, “The brain and the heart both have electromagnetic fields…” The brain’s electromagnetic field can be measured a distance of about two inches away from the body. The heart’s electromagnetic field can be detected 10 to 15 feet away from the body. “Because the electromagnetic field carries with it an emotional content, we all quite literally affect one another’s vibrations―good or otherwise.” 

2. Serotonin – Positive experiences increase levels of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter important for cognitive functions, especially the functions of memory and learning.

Science has proven much of what many of us already know to be true about kindness. Kindness can make an impact on the students in our classrooms, as well as our work with peers.  

“Take a minute to think of at least one person who’s helped you to become who you are inside today, someone who is interested in you for who you really are, someone you feel really accepted the essence of your being. Just one minute, one minute to think of those who’ve made a difference in your life.” –Fred Rogers

Being kind on purpose is not the practice of Pollyanna positive, but an awareness, a nurturing of humanity or humanness for those who learn directly from each of us.  Every single interaction we have with another human is an opportunity for impact.

Do you remember what it was like to be a child?

How do you practice kindness with those you teach?