Multilingual learners’ (MLLs) well-being, as they return to school at the height of the spread of the Omicron variant, is at risk. Our MLLs spent 17 months of isolation during virtual learning. Many of them returned to school last fall demonstrating the effects of trauma from that seclusion. Teachers reported fatigue, lack of focus, anger, and depression in children that have been quarantined during the pandemic. Students also had difficulty relating to each other socially, and MLLs struggled to fit into their classrooms. As they return to school in January, they feel like they are starting all over again. What should teachers do?
What Should Teachers Do?
Teach students to be kind to each other. Think about having a school-wide celebration of Random Acts of Kindness on 17 February. Some schools celebrate Random Acts of Kindness Week from 14–18 February.
Fred Rogers, host of the preschool television series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, says the following about kindness: “Imagine what our real neighborhoods would be like if each of us offered, as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person.” According to Wikipedia, a random act of kindness is “a selfless act performed by a person or persons wishing to either assist or cheer up an individual….There will generally be no reason other than to make people smile, or be happier.”
I think that elementary age students need to be taught about being kind to others. Our MLLs will benefit from a school-wide celebration dedicated to treating each other with kindness. At the very least, students can learn to be the giver of kind acts and talk or write about what they did and how it made them feel. In turn, they will also be the recipient of kind acts.
Benefits to Teaching Kindness
Here are four benefits to MLLs if schools teach about and encourage random acts of kindness.
1. Learners Feel a Sense of Belonging in the Classroom
MLLs will feel more accepted into the classroom culture and benefit from closer interactions and relationships with their peers A teacher who puts kindness at the forefront of their classroom culture supports a stress-free environment. If students play a role in brainstorming the activities for a Random Act of Kindness Day or Week, they will feel more invested in the campaign. Additionally, when students work in groups to come up with ideas for activities for the Random Act of Kindness campaign, they learn how collaborate with one another and forge relationships with classmates.
2. Students Learn Strategies to Alleviate Stress and Anxiety
Students who are living with trauma from the pandemic need activities in the classroom to help them deal with stress. They benefit greatly from being in school and have structure for their day. During the isolation of the pandemic, the future felt uncertain for many MLLs. They often had no structure for their day, especially if they weren’t able to regularly participate in virtual learning. An activity such as Random Acts of Kindness allows them to focus on working on a group project that gives purpose and shape to their school day.
3. Learners Gain New Vocabulary and Oral Language Skills
Students have real reasons to communicate with their peers during group activities. They have the opportunity to acquire and use new vocabulary and practice speaking skills as they share ideas. They build social skills and the language to support those skills in small groups. Because the focus of these activities is on kindness, this gives students the self-confidence to participate during this day and in other, future classroom activities.
4. Students Gain Social Skills
Random Act of Kindness activities allow MLLs to participate in events that focus on making other people happy. By doing random actions of kindness to others, MLLs will learn the joy of making other other people happy and receive happy thoughts from their classmates; this enables them to gain social skills they may not have had the chance to develop during the pandemic.
If you celebrate Random Acts of Kindness Day on February 17th or any other day of the school year, please let us know how it worked out.