By Teachers, For Teachers
Many people believe that spending money on themselves will make them feel good. However, research suggests the opposite is true. Experts found that when we spend money on someone other than ourselves, we are actually happier. The act of generosity feels good because we know we are lifting someone else’s spirits. With the holiday season upon us, we as teachers can encourage our students to express their generosity and help others. Here are some scientific-based teaching strategies on how to encourage kindness and giving in your classroom.
One of the best ways that you can encourage generosity in students is to make sure that you’ve created a classroom environment that has a sense of community: A place where students feel safe and cared for. This is a place where students are free to express their opinions and not feel judged, and where they can take chances and fail. Experts have found that we are the most generous when we have an emotional connection to others. While it takes time to build relationships within your classroom community where everyone fees accepted and connected to others, once these relationships are formed, that’s when your students’ altruism will flourish.
One way that you can create a sense of community within your classroom is to have daily meetings. This is where you open up the floor to anyone who would like to share their thoughts, feelings, or opinions without judgment. The more students get to know their classmates on a deeper level, the sooner they will feel connected to them. The sooner that they feel connected to their peers, the more kind and generous they will be to them.
Have you ever have been in the drive-thru at your local coffee shop and got up to the window to find out that your coffee was already paid for from the car in front of you? This random act of kindness probably made your day, so much so that you feel the need to pay it forward to the person in line behind you. One person doing a good deed for another is a feel good story. If you haven’t encountered this situation, then you may have read or heard someone talk about the small act of kindness they did for someone else, then felt the need to do a good deed too. Research says that hearing someone, or even watching someone else talk about an act of kindness, can actually inspire altruistic behavior in others.
A great way to inspire your students to be kind and generous to others is to read about other acts of kindness. Students can scour the Internet for the best story or read books like “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” Students can even find their favorite viral video on YouTube of incredible acts of kindness caught on camera. Talking about personal stories is yet another way to inspire students. Ask students to share their experiences of kindness with one another and watch how they get inspired.
Many schools reward students when they see them being kind to others. They do this because they think that it will help their students continue to be kind. However, research has found that getting rewarded for being kind will not make you want to be more kind. Instead of rewarding children in hopes of them being more kind and generous to their peers, you need to create a school environment that fosters these conditions; A place where educators model this behavior and support their students. Build a school climate where there’s trust and respect, character-building opportunities, and where students feel safe and cared for. When students see adults behaving generously, then they will too.
Compassion, kindness, and generosity can be learned from others. Don’t just wait for the holiday season, take the time to show your students the joy of giving to others today.
How do you encourage generosity in your students? Do you have any teaching strategies of thoughts on this topic that you would like to share? Please leave your thoughts and comments in the section below, we’d love to hear from you on this topic.
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.