This past week I was able to spend some quality time volunteering at my children’s elementary school. I was lucky enough to be able to pass the last afternoon with 16 of some of the most extraordinary Kindergarten kids on the planet on one of the best days of the year: “C” Day or better known as “Chalk Day”. They were simply given two large buckets of chalk to share and then were given free reign to draw on any of the concrete within the Kindergarten gates (and of course admonished to not draw on themselves or the actual school building 😉 ). I watched in awe as they all, armed with their stick of chalk, went and staked their claim on their concrete slab that would become some of the greatest masterpieces.
I loved how there were no two drawings alike and not one of them seemed worried that they had drawn something different than their classmates. They each seemed to value their own ideas and even if they struggled to make the design come to life that they pictured in their head, they didn’t stop trying. One little girl became frustrated with the star she was drawing. As I bent down to see her drawing I complimented her choice to stick with it. I told her how I could remember being little and practicing drawing stars over and over to try and get it right-just like learning to snap my fingers. I also told her that every star is different but they all light up at night. Reinvigorated, she turned her square into a twinkling skyline that would brighten anyone’s night.
At the end of “Chalk Day”, each student wrote their name under the phrase, “We love Mrs. Wilson” that I wrote. Every name was once again as unique as the personalities that drew it, and together, the combined art became a masterpiece. Experiencing “Chalk Day” reminded me of two points that are the key to address and erase bullying: Kindness and Inclusion.
Kindness matters. Not only is it important to be kind to others, it is really important to be kind to yourself. When things didn’t go as originally planned, I loved how the little girl drawing stars persevered despite the challenges. Eventually, she knew she would get better even if she wasn’t the best right at this moment. This kindness that she showed to herself, to be able to allow for progression, allows her to show more kindness to others. Those who show the most bullying behavior are often the ones who experience the least acts of kindness and have lost this skill to be kind to themselves. It is important to remember that we are all a work in progress.
The second key to decreasing bullying is inclusion. The world was created to be different. Somehow as we grow older we lose the ability to recognize that our differences and what makes us unique is what makes us stronger. Instead, we have a tendency to try and fit into what we view as expectations rather than focus on progressing and growing the talents and abilities that we have been blessed with. Maya Angelou was quoted as saying, “It is time for parents to teach young people early on, that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.”
There is an importance to not just accept but celebrate our differences and that we are unique. I loved how each student on “Chalk Day” had their own idea of what they wanted to draw—no one was worried about what was expected and each felt valued for what they wanted to contribute. I can assure you that unfortunately “Chalk Day” in my daughter’s 4th grade class would not have been the same as it was for my son in Kindergarten as they are already concerned with fitting into the “norm” and meeting expectations. How boring would this world be if we all drew the same art with the same stick of chalk? Different view points and talents are what make the world diverse and together the world is better and stronger. Every parent desires for their child to fit in and it is heartbreaking when you recognize when they are being excluded. The greater lesson to teach your child is how to embrace their being created to be unique and how their gifts and talents matter in the world. Help them to recognize and celebrate the uniqueness in others. Once as I was leaving a tumbling class with a group of young tumblers and their mothers, a tumbler looked at the sucker one of the classmates was delightfully devouring. With all the disgust a 4 year old could muster, she turned to her friends and pointed at the classmate and said “Gross!”. The young girl quickly pulled out her sucker and was about to put it in the trash when I intervened and said, “Isn’t it great that God gave us all our own tongues to decide what we think is gross?” The girl quickly reinserted her sucker into her mouth and said, “My tongue loves it!” There are unique things about us all that need to be recognized and celebrated.
So, today’s tip: Learn the art of inclusion. Seek to develop an inclusion mindset– to look for ways to include others and create an environment where everyone has value. Find ways to celebrate the differences of others and to share what is unique about you. This world was created to be full of diversity and everyone contributes to this masterpiece.