It isn’t easy to be kind at the high school. It isn’t at all cool. (and it doesn’t matter how old you are….) Nice people are perceived as stupid, or weak. These are things to be avoided at all costs.
At the high school, the operative word is tough. Tough is smart, tough is strong. These are things to be achieved and admired for.
Tough appears to be the overall winner. Tough attitudes, tough faces. Tough courses, tough tests. Tough teams, tough practices. Tough kids, tough teachers. No question,tough prevails.
Why even try?
Because Tough APPEARS to be the overall winner. Tough attitudes, tough faces. Tough courses, tough tests. Tough teams, tough practices. Tough kids, tough teachers. No question,tough prevails….on the surface. But underneath, BECAUSE tough prevails, kindess really matters. It’s desperately needed as a matter of fact.
You wouldn’t know that by teen behavior, but it is.
If you’ve ever parented a toddler, it is a little easier to understand. From the age of one to four years old, childen live in these adorable little teflon-coated cocoons. Nearly everything we say bounces right off of them. We don’t expect REALLY expect toddlers to say please and thank you. We don’t expect toddlers to be patient. We don’t expect toddlers to be responsible. Yet…we spend several years “pleasing and thank-youing” to them anyway. Even though…..we will see them throw tantrums, refuse to share, make faces, pick at their food, throw things and a number of other challenging behaviors. It is as if they do not hear a word we say. FOR SEVERAL YEARS! But we keep on trying anyway. That is what parents do. When children emerge from their “toddler-armor”, they have actually absorbed many of the behaviors we have been raining down on them since before potty-training.
I’ve often felt that toddlers and teens have a lot in common. Obsession with potty talk and bodily functions for one. Then there are the passionately emotional/stubbornly indifferent twin sides to their personalities. Both groups have moments when they are completely committed to doing things independently, even when it is impossible or riduculous to do so. AND this selective hearing issue occurs in teens just as virulently as it does in toddlers.
Then…at some point, a young adult emerges from this tought cocoon and it turns out that,yes indeed, they really had been listening all those years.
It is a rare, rare adolescent that is thankful for the kind people in his/her life. Some adolescents are too busy being focused on their struggles and miseries to be appreciative. Others don’t have the social skills to say thank you. Many would be just too embarrassed to try. But they do notice. And they remember.
True, it makes being kind a very thankless job (pun clearly intended!) So, if as human beings, we are being kind so that others will appreciate us, we may be disappointed. But, if we are kind because kindness speaks to how we want to affect the world, rather than how much we would like to be appreciated, being kind isn’t all that difficult to achieve.
Being kind opens the door for choices. It says, I can make decisions, I can be in control of my responses. It shows my students that…and it shows me that. On the days that I am worn out, feeling low, frustrated and grumpy, the choice to be kind is reassuring to me.
Being kind opens the door for additional kindness. It clears a space for the positive. It makes more good things possible. We all could use a little more of that.
Being kind feels better, physically and emotionally. Life is too short, illness too prevalent and pain too powerful to not open up a door that makes us feel healthy and strong.
Being kind communicates hope. Where there is hope, there can be change. When there can be change great things happen. I vote for hope.
It’s true that things at the high school level can get a bit more serious. If we are going to get serious, why not get serious about something as far-reaching, and life-saving, as kindness?
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