On the horizon is a trifecta of designated “days” to show others our joy and appreciation. Friday, October 5 is World Teacher Day, World Smile Day, and Do Something Nice Day! Let this be the triple-play day that scores big fun and happies and lets others know how much they are appreciated.
On World Teacher Day, according to Holiday Insights, “parents and students are encouraged to offer thanks and recognition…A simple ‘thanks,’ or an ecard is sufficient.” It really is a great opportunity to acknowledge teachers’ long hours and frequent challenges. Though sources vary, a few years back Ed Tech editor Corey Murray suggested K-12 teachers work an average of 12- to 16-hour days.
Probably one of the most effortless ways to brighten someone else’s day is with a smile. While World Smile Day, which has its own website, “celebrates the ever popular yellow smiley,” Holiday Insight says the day “also offers us an opportunity to do an act of kindness.” Consider plastering kids’ lunches with smiley faces and maybe tossing in a page of smiley stickers so they can spread the sunshine.
Fold these two opportunities into Do Something Nice Day, and let the effect snowball. Raising kind and empathetic kids is one of a parent’s most important jobs and one that contributes to a better world. Two years ago Jacoba Urist, reporting for Today, wrote “Play Nice: Four Ways to Teach Kindness and Raise Kids Who Aren’t Jerks.” She quotes Mary Gordon, who Urist introduces as “founder and president of Roots of Empathy, a K-8 classroom program designed to instill emotional and social competence, and to reduce aggression,” who says, “Kindness isn’t taught, it’s learned. In order to be kind, you have to experience it at home.”
Sadly, however, the article also cites a survey of 10,000 students, conducted by researchers at the Harvard graduate school of education. It found that “80 percent of youth say their parents care more about their personal achievements or happiness than whether they are kind human beings.”
The article recommends that parents walk the walk and talk the talk—literally, including using and modeling empathetic language—and teach empathy, compassion, and generosity throughout their words and actions. Interestingly, the article recommends rewarding kids’ big acts of kindness but advises against “going overboard.” Urist cites Richard Weissbourd, psychologist and co-author with Stephanie Jones, of the Harvard education study, who according to the article, recommends that “we shouldn’t praise children for everyday helpfulness like taking out the trash or playing with a younger sibling.” Weissbourd says, “That everyday kindness should be expected,” because “That’s how it becomes part of who we are, part of our identity?”
Acts of kindness, of course, come in all sizes. Last year in “7 Fun Ways to Teach Kindness to Kids,” by Kaia Roman, she writes of “mirror neurons” that are “cells in the brain that wire us for imitation,” noting “they’re especially active during childhood.” As she points out, “Kids’ brains are particularly modable, as they’ve had less time to solidify lifelong habits.” Among her suggestions for spreading kindness are the easy but too often overlooked “send kind thoughts” and “smile more often.” She also notes the importance of sharing stories of kindness and paying compliments.
In her classroom, Roman says she plays “empathy charades,” describing that she draws “images of faces on the board and have my students guess the emotion that’s being displayed. We also act out different emotions and guess what other people are feeling.”
As yet another way to get kids focused on the spirit of these special events, not just on October 5 but every day, consider reading stories that feature acts of kindness or changes of heart, including Get Lost, Becka! (about an annoying little sister), A Different Tune (about a creature named Bill who discovers why his unique talent makes him special), and The Big Race (in which identical twins outsmart a neighborhood bully, showing that two clever, determined people working together really can accomplish more! ) Or get the entire three-level Start to Read! Complete Early Reading Program 18-Book Set, with a wide variety of relatable themes and stories.
In bundling World Teacher Day, World Smile Day, and Do Something Nice Day, make it so much fun that kids try and treat every day like a special day for kindness.