Kaitlin Roig is the founder and executive director of Classes 4 Classes, Inc. She is on a one-year leave from her teaching position at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where she has taught the past six years.
Following the tragedy our school endured on 12/14/12, I thought: I needed to find a way to teach my students the importance of love, hope, kindness, consideration, compassion and empathy. The overwhelming support from around the world was what provided me with my idea of how. We were getting and getting and now it was our turn to give. I needed to teach my students that when you get, you have to give and when someone makes you happy, it’s your responsibility to make someone else feel the same joy.
Our class was the first class to reach out to another class and say, “What do you need? How can we help you?” My students were able to experience firsthand that giving and making a difference in someone else’s life is the way to enact positive, social change. It was our way to give back after all we had been given. This is how the idea for Classes 4 Classes, Inc. was born.
My hope is that Classes 4 Classes can raise awareness among teachers and parents and encourage them to embrace sharing a social curriculum with their students. This is the way to ensure children develop a social-emotional intelligence.
Helping children to understand the importance of kindness, compassion and empathy is the path to enable them to feel good about themselves, about their friendships and about their relationships. It allows children to feel included in something and to feel a part of a team. Teaching children essential social skills begins with lessons in school and extends to the home.
It starts in the morning, with a greeting, a kind word. It continues with learning how to share with one another in a way in which everyone feels welcome, safe and secure. It begins with establishing this climate, and it is infused throughout the day. It is working together toward the greater good, in classes, schools, communities and around the world.
When it comes down to it, teaching students a social curriculum, is making sure they are socially aware. Aware of what makes each of us different, what unites us as one, and being accepting of both. Understanding when someone is down, upset or happy and proud — and knowing the appropriate response to have to each. Seeing a peer on the playground all alone and being able to empathize, understanding the loneliness that child must be experiencing. Being aware and able to go over and say, “Hi, would you like to play?”
It may seem so obvious, so simple to us as adults, but these lessons can be forgotten or get scrimped. But then again 1+1=2 and A comes before B are also very simple lessons…but where would each of us be if we hadn’t learned those simplest of lessons?
Ensuring children learn and fully understand the importance of love, kindness, compassion and empathy is critical to create positive and safe environments inside and outside of schools. And it is the responsibility of educators and parents to teach children these essential social skills.
For ideas on how to teach children these lessons at home, visit https://www.classes4classes.org/Info/GetInvolved.aspx.