Creating a Culture of Kindness & Respect

Children are by nature a product of their unique genetics and family culture. Parents have a central role in the formation of conscience, and teachers can make a unique contribution. We honor the child as he/she joins our learning community at whatever age. As a school we have inherent values that we hope to model. We also have a goal to create unique classroom communities that support individual Rotatingchildren joining together to become a respectful and kind group living each day in our environment. We aim to nurture this climate of respect in many ways.

During the first five years of life children are developing brain connections that help them interpret social exchanges, experience compassion, and begin to make decisions that take into account and involve others. During these years the limbic system in the brain and the prefrontal cortex begin to connect. Conscience is defined as "knowledge within oneself, a moral sense." Thus to have a mature conscience is to know what is right and wrong in relation to others and one's own actions.

Conscience begins with compassion and sympathy followed by the development of empathy. Compassion is seeing discomfort or joy in the face of others and having an inner emotional reaction to that.

Sympathy puts compassion into action. After hitting a child for taking your toy, you give the child a hug as a gesture of "I'm sorry."

Empathy requires understanding and the ability to perceive what others might be feeling. A child drops his bear in the paint and begins to cry. A friend begins to cry as well because they feel the sadness and can relate to the experience.

Although the significance of others and their influences increases around three years of age, a child's early experiences and relationships are an important part of building self-respect. This makes our setting an important piece of the child's moral life and the formation of their conscience. Children apply and test what they know with their classmates. Teachers are a primary teaching tool, we must teach social skills and help children understand the difference between right and wrong. We cannot teach children to feel sorry for what they do to others. The core of conscience development is developing the will or motivation to be kind. Just as we can't teach children to be happy, they are happy when they experience something joyful.

We invite children to care by proving that we care about them through our actions.

  • • Teachers show respect for children by moving to their eye level when they talk to children.
  • • Teachers respond in ways that children find comforting when they are sad or angry or afraid. Teachers listen carefully to what children tell us and respond in words that show we understand.
  • • Teachers reach out to gently touch children as part of greeting them when they arrive at school and provide appropriate and genuine affection especially when children are in distress.
  • • Teachers express joyful playfulness with children when we laugh, sing, dance and show excitement when children accomplish difficult tasks.
  • • Teachers make principles of kindness and respect an essential part of classroom life.
  • • Teachers and children make clear agreements that are simple and easy to take part in.
  • • Teachers are responsive and compassionate when children make mistakes, using it as an opportunity for growth and improvement.

When teachers actively create classrooms of respect and kindness, children will naturally develop this way of being too. Throughout the year teachers will continually model, have dialog, practice and confirm this existence.

Modeling is how teachers treat others in a caring and compassionate way, both adults and children.

Dialog is an open-ended discussion in which teachers have not predetermined the decision. Dialog allows students to ask why and to have opportunities to be involved in making meaning and brain connections to what it is to have caring relationships with others or things (animals, plants, our environment.)

Practice means that students will have repeated opportunities to be involved in caring relationships, both with peers and imaginary play.

Confirmation is a teacher's ability to validate and acknowledge children’s growth toward becoming a caring member of our learning community. It also means that teachers will seek to understand when a child beings to make inappropriate choices often or begins to develop a pattern. When teachers observe this they will follow the process outlined in our Guide to working with challenging behavior.