Kindness grows in a classroom environment through modeling, open discussions and cultivating relationships. It is not simply taught but absorbed by students through continual exposure. It needs to be immersed in their everyday life through moments. As a Kindergarten teacher I am always looking for new ways to help children practice kindness and cultivate positive relationships. Creating lessons for students where they have to collaborate, learn about each other, and have meaningful discussions is key to cultivating kindness.
Every moment is an opportunity to be kind.
I have found a true gem that allows for kindness to spread like wildflowers throughout the room. That gem is coding. I don’t teach coding in Kindergarten to my students just because it teaches great mathematical, spatial and organizational skills but I also teach coding because it always leads to kindness. After I teach the basic skills of coding within the classroom I sit back and get to watch the magic happen.
Children begin to respectfully disagree with one another. Children share and take turns even though they are so excited to code. They listen to each other. They cheer each other on when multiple attempts are made to code something. It is all a collaborative effort that reaps so many benefits. This may not happen the first time or even the 100th time working on coding projects within the classroom, but the point here is that it is giving kids many chances to make mistakes within coding and make mistakes with friends. It takes continual practice and I am grateful to be able to teach coding because my students love it so much, but also that it gives the opportunity to teach many important social emotional skills along the way. Through learning how to code and working together my students have developed compassion and understanding for one another. They give each other grace when mistakes are made.
The beauty of coding is you have to make mistakes. It’s part of the process.
I work with students who have many different needs behaviorally, socially, academically and emotionally. Coding levels the playing field for my students. None of the differences matter when they code. They all become engaged learners and critical thinkers. They become cheerleaders for one another. One of the best sounds I hear is the laughter, cheers and squeals of excitement after they have successfully completed a code.
There are many wonderful programs out there to teach social emotional skills and kindness. These programs are great but often taught in isolation. Our job is to bring the lessons learned to life everyday in our classroom. What better way to bring out what they learned during these social emotional lessons than through coding?
Our school has a daily mantra that we say over the loudspeaker. “Hand in hand with kindness we can dream, persevere and grow.” This is a powerful message for our young Prek-2nd grade students. I remember a moment vividly when I first introduced coding to my students. They were trying to code our mouse Colby to a piece of cheese. They had a hard time at first and it took 4 attempts to get it just right. Once the mouse got to the cheese one girl in my class yelled out in excitement “Yay! We persevered!” which was then followed by hugs for all of her friends in the group. That mantra lives within our students hearts and I owe it to coding activities in the room for allowing it to authentically come alive within the classroom.