Behind the Blog

Behind the Blog
My name is Cindy Kruse and I've been learning from elementary students for the past 16 years. I enjoy discovering new technology and implementing it in the classroom, absolutely love literacy, and am passionate about Responsive Classroom. I am constantly striving to learn new and innovative ways to teach students in order to provide authentic, interesting, and joyful classrooms.


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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Happiness vs. Kindness?

I recently had the opportunity to attend the Responsive Classroom School-Wide Conference in Amherst, MA. While the entire 3 day conference was thought provoking, one of the speakers in particular left his ideas bouncing around in my head.

Richard Weissbourd, writer of "The Parents We Mean to Be", challenged my thinking about morality by asking, "How do we make values central to a child's moral development?" He explained that the emphasis parents have placed on a child's happiness has had a negative effect on a child's inclination towards goodness. Furthermore, he contends that kindness (or goodness) should be
more important than happiness. When this occurs, we will find ourselves "being good" towards others.

Being others focused simply doesn't come naturally (especially in today's society). We are egocentric in nature. Therefore, this shift will entail a concerted effort on the part of both parents and adults with vested interest in the lives of the children we love. We need to be models of "goodness" for our children, our students, our families. The modeling that I am referring to is not to be translated as "perfect". We must engage in real conversations with children about morality, such as acknowledging how hard it can be to be honest sometimes. Often adults will encourage children to be kind towards others because, "Goodness (or kindness) leads to happiness." Weissbourd believes we should promote kindness because "it is vital to our own collective good". What does this look like in the real world? Having children give credit to others for their achievements, requiring them to return phone calls, and helping children to tune into the emotional feelings of others.

As I sat in the audience listening and reflecting, I have to confess that all of this talk about morality seemed overwhelming to me at first. If I'm honest with myself (and since I'm writing about morality I feel the need to make a sincere attempt to be so), I realize my shortcomings in the morality department. I have to admit that I was relieved when Richard concluded his talk by saying that it is possible for as adults to work on our own moral development, that our capacity is not fixed. We shouldn't measure ourselves against others, but rather strive to be "superior to our former selves."


Tracy Mercier said...

That was powerful stuff! It does make you wonder which we should focus on. And your reflection on his comments make me reflect on something we had chatted about in the past. If the world were a little more RC. Isn't that what RC is all about? Being kind to others? Developing life - long skills to be kind? While happiness is great, the truth is immorality IS what's destroying our society, on-line & in person.

And I'm not sure about being able to have both happiness & kindness (as someone FB'd you). As Weissbourd reminded us, you can be kind (moral) & not be happy. Sometimes doing the right thing can be lonely: standing up for someone, for example.

We all have our faults, but we can all strive to be kind. As you say in your last line, that's something else that I think RC does. We teach children to know themselves, so that they are conscious of their actions & effect on others. Thanks for the thinking!