Sunday, November 13, 2016

Are We Smarter Than A Third Grader?

If I've learned anything from this election season it's this:  the lessons I teach to third graders could easily be taught to the adults in this country and we could all conquer the world!  Sadly, I don't work with adults so I'll just do my little part and hope for the best.

In third grade we do an entire unit on bullying.  We have a bully pledge hanging in our classroom. We follow it and we live it as third graders.  I have to believe it carries on in their lives.  I have to believe that my time with them is not wasted and they are listening to me.

 This is what the bully pledge looks like:  
Third Grade Bully Pledge
  1. We will not put others down.
  2. We won’t bully others.
  3. We will not laugh at others.
  4. We will help students who are being bullied.
  5. We will include students who are left out.
  6. We will report any bullying we know about or see.
  7. We will practice the traits and skills we learn through our character education lessons.

It's very hard to teach these lessons when adults don't follow these very basic rules.  In just a few days I've watched most of my Facebook feed be filled with people putting each other down, laughing at people for being upset, watching people get hurt, seeing people be torn apart by choices they've made as Americans, and telling people their thoughts and feelings don't matter because they feel differently than another person.  It all goes against EVERYTHING we are telling our children. We are becoming a nation of bullies and it's got to stop.  

We need to take a step back and remember the children are watching everything now!  I wasn't going to discuss the election with my students at all due to the fact that I knew they were hearing so much about the candidates.  I truly didn't want to field questions about them.  I also didn't want my feelings to shine through.  But in the end, on Election Day, I did a pretty good lesson with them about the election process, what it takes to be the president, and how important the job is.  We also discussed pets at the White House and what kids can do to be good citizens, so it turned out to be actually very fun and a great day.

 I also threw in a lesson about making good decisions about candidates.  I never said who I was for or against.  I told them about when I was a kid, my parents would never tell me who they voted for.  Voting was private and you didn't share that information with anyone, if you didn't want to.  I told them I never knew who my parents voted for and I still don't.  They were shocked by this.  These little kids know way more than we ever did as children.  In some cases, this could be very good.  But this past year, I have to say, we've dropped the ball in protecting the kids.  If you're my age or close, how much did we know about Ronald Reagan during those election days?  Nothing bad.  Our parents never told us anything bad about him and we all looked up to him!  He was to be respected because he held the highest job in the land.  Times have changed drastically.  Kids hear everything all the time now.  Maybe there should be a happy medium in here somewhere.  Being honest with the kids is great, but do they need every detail?  Do they need to know every opinion we have?

I told the students not to believe every word they hear; they have to be good little researchers and make informed decisions on their own as they get older.  If they are going to be exposed to all of this, then they need to know what's fact and what's fiction.  This crazy thing they call the internet is here to stay and that's how we all get our information.  It's more important than ever to teach children that not everything is true, just because it's on the internet.

The point here, and I do have one, is this:  Our nation's kids learn by what we model.  If they see someone making fun of someone, or laughing at someone, or being mean to someone, then they think it's okay if it's an adult doing it.  We are their role models.  We have to show them the right ways to behave.  Social media should be off limits to them until they are old enough to decide what's true and what's false.  That goes for most adults as well.

This year I can honestly say I have the kindest, sweetest group of kids I've had in a long time.  They care about each other.  They want to be better.  They want to make a difference in the world.  They think of others first.  But they also came in after the election using words like "we are screwed" and "Hillary buys people" and other things I won't mention.  Trust me when I say, they didn't come up with that on their own.  They echo what they hear and believe it to be true.

Let's try something.  When the kids are around, no bad mouthing others.  No trash talking.  No meanness at all.  You could do that anyway....but let's do it for sure when the kids are listening.  They trust us and they believe us.  Try saying the third grade bully pledge today.