We all know that kindness starts at home… but when it’s fostered in early childhood classrooms, “it really flourishes,” said Tynaya Quickley, pre-kindergarten teacher at The Bryn Mawr School.
Bryn Mawr has a four-year-old program as part of its Little School; but Quickley’s all-girls PreK class is part of its Lower School. The PreK program launched last year and this year’s class is small and mighty with 7 energetic students. The girls wear uniforms, participate in special area classes, and fully take part in the Lower School experience. “This is where our students begin to discover their voices, gain confidence and learn really important and foundational social and academic skills,” said Lower School Director Laurie Vennes.
One of those foundational skills is kindness and it permeates Bryn Mawr’s classroom culture, beginning with how Quickley interacts with students when conflict arises.
“I don’t ever tell or force students to apologize,” said Quickley. “Because I believe actions speak louder than words. Instead of asking a student to say that they’re sorry, I ask them how they can help their friend. The apologies come naturally.”
Encouraging students to stop and think about how their behavior affects others – and how they can remedy it by helping – is intentional modeling. Quickley finds it to be an effective classroom management tool, but modeling is something that parents can do at home to help their own child develop a sense of connectedness and responsibility toward others.
Although, Quickley admits it’s not always as easy when it comes to her own child.
“Sometimes you just want to say ‘apologize!’ I’ve done it myself,” said Quickley, with a ‘been there, done that’ chuckle. “But it’s really important to listen to your child’s words and be present. Show them that you’re hearing what they say. When they say something unkind, ask them about it. A good choice of words is, ‘So I heard you say…is that right (or correct)?’”
Having your child think and reflect on their words will help them develop a sense of understanding about kindness, and why it’s important to be caring toward others.
And don’t forget to point out acts of kindness! Positively reinforce your child’s kind behavior by celebrating it. You don’t have to throw a party per se; but you’ll be surprised how much a squeeze and a “I’m so proud of you for helping your friend pick up those books!” means to a preschooler. Deepen the conversation by asking your child how they have experienced kindness.
Quickley’s students are spending the month of December observing kindness throughout the school day. Students have created a paper chain of kindness. Each link of the chain contains a kind act that students have seen or experienced in their classroom. For example, one student said that a friend played with her in the sandbox. Another student mentioned that a classmate helped her come up with a great idea when she was playing with plastic animals.
There are ten days left and Quickley is fairly sure they’ll have enough paper links to stretch across the classroom.
Bryn Mawr is currently accepting applications for their 2022-23 pre-kindergarten class. Find out more here.
Editor’s Note: This article is sponsored by The Bryn Mawr School. To learn more about the school, visit their listing in our independent school directory. Images were provided by the school.