Education, Features, Law and Politics, New York

Kindness: A Moral Imperative for Today’s Schools

October 4, 2017

By Neal Tepel

In today’s world, the need for our youth to develop emotional intelligence is critical for a democratic society to thrive. In order to enable our children to obtain empathy and an understanding of “kindness,” which is a critical trait for a socially, intellectually, and emotionally responsive school, we must embark on an intensive school-wide campaign. At the Greenwood Lake Middle School in Monroe, N.Y., principal Jeffrey Golubchick is commencing a campaign called “One Book, One School.” Every family and staff member will be receiving a copy of Wonder, by P. J. Palacio. The initiative will be launched on October 10, the birthday of the main character, Auggie.

Wonder is about a teenage boy named August, nicknamed Auggie, who has a facial deformity that causes others to avoid and even shun him. When Auggie enters a regular school in fifth grade after being home-schooled, he must learn to cope with a difficult new environment. He must learn how to relate to new people who are not always kind. But the interpersonal relationships among the book’s characters eventually enable Auggie to be accepted, and let his true character shine, through kindness elicited by his classmates and teachers.

In order to emphasize the importance of the moral concept of kindness, Principal Golubchick has provided a letter and index card and envelope in each copy of the book. The envelope contains five strips of construction paper that each child can decorate with images, words, and thoughts to express kindness. The students are asked to work on the strips with members of their family and bring them back to school, where staff will turn them into the largest kindness chain ever.

If students want to create an even larger chain, more strips are available in the office and from Principal Golubchick. There is a large bowl in the school’s lobby, which will be filled with one small ball for every strip that’s returned—to show how kindness is growing in the school. On Oct. 10, the entire school community will write messaging on the index card to Auggie, sharing what they would say to him on his special day.

October 4, 2017

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