Some educators would like to believe that their job is to be content specialists, but increasingly they are realizing that without the social and emotional skills to navigate setbacks and difficult relationships kids won’t learn much. Some schools weave social and emotional learning throughout the day, integrating it with content, while others use advisory as a place students can talk about their problems. Mindfulness has gained traction in classrooms. And, increasingly schools are explicitly focusing on the value of kindness.
In his New York Times article Richard Schiffman discusses one kindness program inspired by the Dalai Lama’s call to take contemplative practice out of a religious context and make it useful to people’s lives. A big chunk of the program aims to help young kids name their emotions and talk through them. Schiffman writes there’s some research backing up the approach too.
They may also fare better later in life. One 2015 study that tracked kindergartners to young adulthood found that individuals with good prosocial skills — behavior that is positive, helpful and friendly — tended to be more successful as adults than those who did well in subjects like reading and math but lacked the ability to get along with others.
The Kindness Curriculum is part of a growing global movement to teach emotional intelligence in schools. Advocates of this approach say it’s shortsighted for teachers to focus narrowly on intellectual learning and ignore the cooperative emotional skills that enable learning — and learners — to flourish.
Still, some question whether personality traits like kindness can be taught.
Since the curriculum was introduced in August, more than 15,000 educators, parents and others from around the world have signed up for it. P.S. 212, which is in a neighborhood in Jackson Heights that is home to many new immigrants, was one of the first public schools in New York City to introduce mindfulness-based practices like yoga.