Why Kindness?

Katie Plunkett & Becca Reed

Episode Summary

We're celebrating World Kindness Week with a special episode about how kindness is transforming classrooms. Katie Plunkett, educator and founder of The Calm Classroom, and kindness.org Chief Programs Officer Becca Reed, creator of the Learn Kind curriculum, talk with Jaclyn about the big and small ways kindness is changing the game for kids.

Episode Notes

This week, Jaclyn is joined by Katie Plunkett, founder of The Calm Classroom, and kindness.org Chief Programs Officer Becca Reed, creator of the Learn Kind curriculum. They discuss why kindness in education matters, the role social-emotional learning plays in the lives of students, and why prioritizing kindness in classrooms is essential.

It's World Kindness Week and we're celebrating in a way we never have before. Go to kindness.org/donate to learn how you can join and help us support the well-being of kids everywhere. Let's build a kinder world, together.

Have a question? Contact us at podcast@kindness.org or on social at @kindnessorg

 Sponsored by Verizon

Important links from this week's episode:

Follow Katie and The Calm Classroom on social:

Follow Becca on social:


Transcript available at this link

Episode Transcription

Intro: Kindness

Why kindness?

Because it makes a difference. 

For connection.

Kindness can change lives.

It's contagious.

The science says you'll be glad you did.

Kindness is...The key to a healthier, happier world.

Jaclyn Intro: Why kindness? While no one answer is the same, one thing is clear. Kindness is something we all know, but do we know why it matters?

I'm your host, Jaclyn Lindsay, co-founder, CEO of kindness.org, and you're listening to Why Kindness?

Jaclyn: Hello, hello, friends, welcome to another episode of the Why Kindness? podcast. This is your host, Jaclyn Lindsay, and tonight's episode, we are going to get into so many elements around the why of kindness.org and the role kindness plays in shaping children's lives. We're joined by two formidable women, people who have been shaping the education space in a variety of ways.

You're going to hear their perspectives about why kindness in education matters, the role social-emotional learning can play in the lives of students, starting at a young age, and how they are each contributing to a kinder world through their work. We have two educators, one who's actively in the classroom and one who's formally in the classroom, but is the creator of Learn Kind, the curriculum being used by students around the country and world.

As founder of the Calm Classroom, Katie Plunkett is passionate about teaching practical strategies and resources for social-emotional learning and whole child teaching. Her blog and brand empower educators and caregivers to cultivate wellness in the classroom and beyond. With an MA in teaching and nearly a decade of classroom experience, Katie understands the challenges that teachers face in diverse educational settings.

Becca Reed is the Chief Programs Officer at kindness.org and the creator of the Learn Kind curriculum, a K through 8 kindness curriculum, powered by social-emotional learning and scientific inquiry. Having spent a decade in K through 12 education, Becca worked with thousands of educators and students across the US, first as a classroom teacher, program designer, and trainer, and later as an education consultant.

And she was the host of the education innovation podcast Off the Assembly Line. With that, I'm going to invite our wonderful guests, Katie Plunkett and Becca Reed, to the Why Kindness? podcast. Hello, Katie and Becca.

Becca: Hi

Katie: Hi

Jaclyn: Welcome. Um, okay. So big question, why kindness? And I'm going to start with you, Becca.

What would you say to why kindness?

Becca: I think why kindness, because it is, the most accessible thing. It's the thing that is within everybody's grasp that can make a positive impact in literally every moment,  every environment, every situation, regardless of what it is. Um, this answer changes for me constantly, but I, right now in this moment, thinking about it, why kindness is the accessibility of it.

It is already within everybody's hands.

Jaclyn: Love that. Thank you. And Katie, what would you say? Why kindness?

Katie: I think kindness is just one of the most transformative things that exists in this world. I've seen kindness transform classrooms, transform relationships, transform conflict into opportunities for connection.

Um, and it, and like Becca so eloquently stated, it's, it's accessible, and everybody has that capacity to be kind and to make the change for the better, um, kindness is like at the core of everything that I do online and in the classroom. So, yeah, I, I think it's, it's everything. It's so important.

Jaclyn: So let's, let's just go straight there, Katie.

Just tell our audience a little bit about what you mean by what you do online and in the classroom.

Katie: Yeah, so I am still a full-time teacher. I'm currently teaching third grade. Um, kind of in a unique context, I work at a Waldorf school, so I actually loop with my students. I started with them in first grade, taught them second, now I'm with them in third.

So I've really just seen their growth academically and social-emotionally, and it's, yeah, they're just turning into the most wonderful little people. So, so that's what I'm doing throughout the day, but then I go home at the end of the day, um, and I do a lot of work online specifically surrounding like social-emotional learning and just whole child teaching strategies.

Um, I'm really passionate about teaching, um, but I also think that teaching in its current form is extremely difficult, if not completely unsustainable profession without the proper supports. Um, and so what I aim to do online is provide strategies that both teachers and families can use to just organically integrate social and emotional learning, um, lessons and activities into conversations and things that they're already doing.

Um, just really quick, actionable strategies. That's kind of what I'm all about.

Jaclyn: And how did you get into teaching? 

Katie: It was honestly kind of on accident. Um, I graduated from college and I signed up for AmeriCorps, um, and I, uh, City Year specifically, which places, um, young adults age 18 to 25 in classrooms all throughout the United States, um, specifically in underserved communities.

And so I was placed in a sixth grade classroom in a really, um, high need school in South Los Angeles. And I just saw this urgent need for high-quality educators and people that really were willing to step up and put in, like, the consistent work, um, to, to reach kids that were not getting all of the supports that they really need to be successful.

So my career path very quickly just shifted from, um, studying for the LSAT while I was in AmeriCorps to, I'm not taking this, this isn't happening, I'm gonna apply for a credential, um, and I haven't looked back. 

Jaclyn: Wow. Becca, you were in the classroom for several years. Tell us a little bit about your career trajectory and how you found yourself teaching.

Becca: Yeah, so I spent some time in higher education, um, on the admissions and enrollment side of things. And, um, I was coming out of a particular position really feeling the need to be doing work that allowed me to pour my entire self in, into a mission that I believed would have a long and lasting impact and a broad impact.

And so I spent some time, uh, really, um, exploring what that would be. This was my late twenties, and really trying to understand maybe what I was, what I was built for. And when I was thinking about, um, breadth of impact, depth of impact, um, and the things that I really cared about through this exploratory year, everything kept coming back to the education system, um, because I knew so many people who were working within the system, so many people who had children within the education system in the US.

And the consensus was that it was broken, um, to be transparent, challenging in ways that were having lasting impacts on everyone that was affected by it, both children and adults, um, children, educators, parents, administrators, and yeah, the opportunity for impact is really what drew me in. Um, I spent four years in the classroom, um, working in an underserved community for the first couple of years, teaching first and third grades.

Uh, it was an incredible experience. I learned probably more about myself professionally and otherwise, um, in those years in the classroom than, um, maybe any other time professionally. And then I taught, um, a STEM program as a special area teacher for, um, the next two years. So I taught kindergarten through fifth grade and had the opportunity to start working with teachers and training them in, uh, STEM education and then working, uh, to develop professional development programs, um, and in curriculum development as well.

Jaclyn: Um, so. I know that you both have passionate perspectives about the critical need of social-emotional learning, um, and the role it, it plays in shaping the lives of children. Katie, tell us how you discovered social-emotional learning, like why you lean on it so much, why you rely on it so much.

Katie: Yeah, it, it started actually while I was doing AmeriCorps. Um, specifically learning about the realm of like restorative justice and just alternative approaches to discipline. Um, the school that I was in, the kids were just having really intense problems like related to behavior, um, and there was not enough supports for teachers, so I, as a, um, very just like motivated student teacher, like wanted to research all of these different strategies and my mentor teacher really gave me the opportunity to try out different things with the class.

And so I, over time, was able to figure out different strategies that worked. And one of those strategies was like a daily mental health check-in. We started doing weekly, we called them councils, but it's really just like a talking circle. And there's very specific guidelines that go with that, um, expectations of, of respect and um, the other thing that I started to do, and this is kind of what started to launch the, the business side of my Instagram, um, was I started researching different breathing exercises, but a lot of them are for adults, um, and they don't really incorporate like fun imagery or child-friendly language. So I took it upon myself to adapt all of these different breathing exercises for kids.

And that is how I started my Instagram page. I just started sharing those. Um, I uploaded them on Teachers Pay Teachers and Etsy. Um, and I got a pretty positive reception and my students personally loved them. They even like, helped me come up with some of these concepts. Um, so, yeah, that kind of, yeah, summarizes how I got started in that realm.

Jaclyn: I love that. And Becca, what about you?

Becca: You know, when I was, uh, teaching, social-emotional learning was a part of the landscape, but it wasn't as widespread or, um, yeah, it wasn't as widespread and as much a part of the discussion as it is today, um, or at least I was not aware of it. And of course, I was coming in, um, as a career change and there was so much that I was learning on the fly, every day, um, and in real time.

And when I think about social-emotional learning, um, and my teaching experience, when I started learning more about it, um, which was after the fact, um, a bit after the fact that I was, uh, after the time that I was in the classroom, it was like, oh my goodness, this was, the piece of the puzzle that I really wish that I had, I wish I had more supports for, um, and more education in.

And, um, the, especially in developing the Learn Kind curriculum, um, the deeper I got into the research and the development of that, it was, I, I was just having like, lightbulb after lightbulb after lightbulb and, um, you know, just so many situations coming to mind, um, with my former students and, um, clarity around the need, uh, for social-emotional learning.

Jaclyn: So, let's talk a little bit about Learn Kind. How would you describe the origin of it, Becca? Tell us from your version, your experience, how it came to be.

Becca: Well, from my experience, I, I came into this burgeoning project with kindness.org at a time when I was stepping, um, into some of my own projects. I had launched a podcast about, um, education or innovation and education called Off the Assembly Line. 

Um, discussions around how do we disrupt the system in a way that gets kids off the assembly line of learning, um, in the way that it's set up and really, um, addresses their holistic humanity, um, as full people, as, um, lifelong learners and, um, launched a, um, a mastermind group for, uh, really dynamic and innovative educators who were thinking about things differently. Um, and business leaders and professionals who were very invested in education and wanting to, um, bridge this gap between, uh, sort of what I called education and the real world.

Um, this, this big gap where we all kind of need to be swimming together, um, to create the bridges that we need to, um, bring kids from their childhood and adolescence into really thriving, successful adulthood. Um, and so I was, I was in this space, um, starting a few different projects and doing some consulting work and, um, stepped into this project with kindness.org that was, um, setting out to sort of reimagine kindness in classrooms in a way that filled gaps and was meeting needs that weren't currently, um, or weren't as fully being met, um, and, and potentially do something new. 

So that was sort of the call to action when I came in. And I, I came into the project first as a, uh, strategic thought partner, really. And when we started, um, getting into the need and getting into, um, the potential of the kind of this big, um, big call to action.

Katie: Becca, I'm honestly so just like impressed by you that you saw this need in schools. Like so many teachers are really quick to throw in the towel and I don't blame them. Like this field is so hard, um, and like for all the reasons that you said, like we just don't have supports and like social-emotional learning and like carving time out of the day to do this is challenging and you've just laid it out in Learn Kind in a way that's so actionable and like just well done.

My students respond so well to the strategies that I've done with them from Learn Kind. It's, it's just amazing. Um, I am, I'm so impressed by you. 

Becca: That a little bit, uh, or a lot, makes me want to cry. So thank you so much for saying that. Um, yeah, it's, it is such a journey, like when you're in education, you feel like you are In this epic odyssey, like it doesn't matter what school you're in, what classroom you're in, what group of kids you're working with, you know, what, what challenges or, um, you know, luxuries you're working within, it does feel like this, like, odysseic kind of thing.

And it, it really is right. Like the implications are so big and yeah, it does feel, um, I remember I was in the classroom from, uh, 2012 to 2016, I think, and then was, um, working with, with teachers primarily after that for another, uh, three or four years. Um, but I just remember thinking like, like, you used the word unsustainable, and, um, you know, this was like ten-ish years ago, however long, six, six, eight, ten years ago, and, um, and, and that's what I felt then, and it's only gotten harder, um, since then.

So, yeah, I, I'm with you, um, I feel you still, and I, like, it just means everything to hear that I, you know, when we, when we developed the curriculum, there was this opportunity and for us, we never want to reinvent the wheel or create something just because there's an opportunity to create it. 

It's like, what is the actual need that teachers and students are facing right now? What is the thing that feels the realist? And how can we, you know, the thing that feels the realist and is for whatever reason, not being met. And how can we find ways around what those barriers are? Because there are so many, um, roadblocks in sort of the way the system is set up, the bureaucracy of it all.

Um, That make progress sometimes feel impossible, but I think one of the things that I really value about the way that we work is, one of our core values is problem-solving, like that there, Yep, It feels impossible. Yes, it seems idealistic to say we can create a kinder world for example, and we believe that it actually is possible and we're going to find a way to do it and there are going to be challenges along the way and maybe it looks different than what we think that it should look like, but there's a way to get there.

And so when we started thinking about what, what is needed to bring more kindness in the classrooms, um, we started by listening to teachers. So asking them, um, and of course, I was coming in with all of my experience, so I felt very strongly in a few different directions. Um, but we really wanted to hear from educators, what is the thing that you need? 

And I had been working with educators across the country. And the thing that I took away, one of the things I took away from all of that was, oh, wow, the problems are persistent and consistent. Like, it didn't matter. Um, it didn't matter what state you were in. It didn't matter even sometimes what, what financial resources you had available like the challenges were, were there across the board. Um, and they looked and sounded very similar. So we wanted to ask teachers what their real needs were. And so many things came out of that process of really hearing from hundreds of K-8 educators, administrators, but primarily teachers, and You know, we heard a lot about, um, the accessibility of the curriculum.

Financially speaking, curriculums are expensive. Um, resources are expensive. So much is coming out of our own pockets. Um, we heard that they, uh, they wanted resources that were adaptable enough. Like, My kids are coming in with unique needs, I want to be able to change something on the fly or bring this piece of the puzzle in at this time.

Um, but the thing that was most, um, resonant with me and the thing that I think makes, I hope makes this curriculum feel different and unique and meet a unique need was we were hearing from teachers that so many of the resources developed for our students are, um, they didn't use the words too standardized, but I'm just going to say too standardized. And what I mean by that is it's not accounting for the very unique lived experiences that my students are bringing into the classroom, right? It's not accounting for the challenges, challenges they're facing at home. It's not accounting for different dynamics within their communities. It's not accounting for, um, the unique ways that they learn and interact with the world and perceive the world.

Um, and, and so that's what we tried to design for, was a curriculum that could meet as many students as possible, right where they're at. How can we level the playing field? And for us, and I'm going to wrap this very long answer up in just a second, that meant starting with inquiry. 

So instead of coming from the top and saying, here's what kindness looks like, here's what you should do. Here's how you ought to be. Um, You know, we brought it in from a research perspective and said, here's what the research says about kindness, but research is constantly evolving and by the way, we want you to step into this process, um, as a scientist yourself. You, you discover it, you know, you, um, explore these skills and tell us what the impact actually is.

And, yeah, that was sort of the genesis of, of it all.

Katie: I'm in the elementary setting now, but my credential is actually secondary social science. And in my credential program, that's how I learned to structure a lesson was with an inquiry arc. Like, you start with an essential question, um, and you introduce different viewpoints, and that's like the structure of a unit is diving in through the lens of inquiry.

And that's one of the things I love the most when I saw Learn Kind, I was like, yes, this is exactly how I would lay it out if I could have done this. But yeah, it's perfect.

Jaclyn: Wow. That's amazing. So this is amazing. Um, Katie, you're using Learn Kind, which to us, it's so like validating, you know, and encouraging.

And we know there's users everywhere. But then when we get to sit with a teacher and hear their experience, what's happening in the classroom. Becca and I, this is like life's work, you know, in a different way. It's something we've built over here, but then we're giving it to educators and hoping that they'll then bring it into the classroom in a way that's meaningful and measurable for their students.

Um, what can you say about your experience using it? What have you seen as you've taken your students on the journey? Um, yeah, I would love to just hear any insights that you have about being a user of the curriculum.

Katie: Yeah, so I can answer this question on a, on a few different levels. Um, one thing just right off the bat that I recognized about Learn Kind that I really appreciate as an educator is its flexibility and like adaptability for, um, different classroom styles, like whether you're online or in person.

Um, In this post-COVID world that we're living in, there is a lot of, I mean, even the past couple of years, we've had to do a couple of from home days, just because of like the numbers of illnesses that are happening in the school. So having that as an option is just so great. Um, cause there doesn't have to be this pause in like what I'm doing. I can just continue. 

I also, just the actual like implementation of the lessons has been so successful with my students because of that lens of inquiry. My students are in the third grade. They're kind of becoming aware that they are individuals separate from their classmates, even separate from their parents and from their families.

And they're really, their identities are starting to form. And they're just asking a million questions every single day. A lot of, which are really big questions I can't answer. Um, but I love that the inquiry framework of Learn Kind really stokes and nurtures that curiosity. Um, and I think it really just increases buy in.

I mean, they, they understand, um, that, you know, kindness is important because they, they see it, they can recognize kindness, but really understanding like the why, it's more than just being nice. Um, being kind actually has positive consequences, like for your mental health. Um, it helps build communities. Like there are all of these other really important reasons to be kind and I love how Learn Kind explores each and every one of those. 

Yeah. I love that there's just, um, so many different activities on the platform too, like there's the actual like core lessons, um, but then there's all of these other resources. Like we just had anti-bullying month. And so I love that there's all of these anti-bullying resources available on Learn Kind that I can pull from and just incorporate in different ways. And I really, truly have noticed a difference in my students. 

Um, I actually came in their first grade year halfway through the year. I took over from a teacher who left, um, and I don't really know the circumstances around anything before I was here, but I know when I came in, my class was struggling. They, there was just conflict between students, um, even between parents. Um, it just was really challenging. Um, and it's taken a long time for us to get to this point where my students are genuinely understanding the why behind kindness.

Um, and a huge part of that is because of Learn Kind and these consistent lessons that they're getting in kindness. Um, and it's had a hugely positive effect on my classroom culture.

Jaclyn: Wow. Thank you for that, Becca. I hope. Yeah. It's incredible. 

Becca: Like little cartwheels on the inside.

Jaclyn: I, I think you're hitting on something I definitely don't want us to shy away from, and I think there's this, um, conversation right now that social-emotional learning, uh, you know, it's becoming politicized.

It's something where like people are saying that it shouldn't be prioritized. It's not something that can really affect children. It's the wrong thing to give kids. Um, as they're growing up or it shouldn't happen in a classroom. So I'm curious, Katie, like, have you felt that or experienced that? Do you feel like everyone's embracing social-emotional learning?

And what would you say to any skeptics that are, you know, uncertain of how tangible or effective SEL and prioritizing SEL can really be?

Katie: For sure. I mean, I, I hear it when people say, well, I don't have time for that. I get it. Like we don't even have time to hit all the standards that we have to meet. It's the amount that's expected for us to deliver is a lot, but, um, social-emotional learning is, is a non-negotiable.

Um, I know for me personally, if nothing else, my students will leave my classroom as kinder individuals, um, and, you know, active citizens that are going to support their peers. That is critical. I think that that's something that's often lost in the academic realm in general. There's, you know, it's in a lot of ways, I think the American education system has become like quantity over quality.

I think that there we're trying to push through as many kids as possible, get the highest numbers as possible. So much is tied to funding. Um, and all of these soft skills like communication and empathy and kindness are, are being lost. 

Um, so when I hear people say like, well, I don't have time for that. It's like, okay, so you don't have, you, you may feel like you don't have time, but let's really just assess like the priorities here. For me, social-emotional learning is number one. Um, and it has a trickle down effect into all other areas in our classroom and at school. My students are like better participants and learners because they are receiving social-emotional learning.

They're learning how to communicate with each other. They're learning how to engage in group discussion. They're doing teamwork building and all of that is possible because they're having opportunities to practice explicitly social skills. Um, so when people say that, like, I really just first invite them to evaluate priorities.

Um, and second, it's like, okay, well, do you have five minutes? Like, is that all you have? Okay, well then let's use that. How can we use that to incorporate lessons or do something, um, that is building their social and emotional learning skills? And also a lot of it can be done even in the moment, like, conflicts very organically arise in the school setting, sometimes nonstop all day long.

These are all opportunities to, you know, talk to our kids in a way that is respectful, um, and appropriate. And even the way that we communicate with them is having an effect on how they learn to communicate with each other. So I think that social-emotional learning can be integrated into what we're already doing in so many ways.

But even if you only have five minutes a day, there's so much that you can do. Um, and for me, that's like another reason why I love Learn Kind. It's like, okay, I have 10 minutes today. What can I do? And there's options. I love that.

Jaclyn: Thank you. Becca, from your perspective, thinking about the complexity of the world, every day, new things we are facing. What would you say to the idea of how we are equipping kids and why it, why it, really matters? Why this program, this curriculum really matters?  

Becca: Um, okay, well, I was already teeing myself up to add on to something that, um, well, to add on to what Katie was saying because I was very, very into it. So I'm going to go back to that and it's kind of answering your question, but then I can come back if I need to. Um, I, the other, the other piece, um, of, the social-emotional learning.

Um, so Katie spoke so beautifully to like what's happening in interactivity between peers and between student and teacher. And I would say, um, uh, In addition to that, or maybe even before that, which is a little bit how we design the curriculum if you're to go through it sequentially, is, um, is the idea of, the concept of, the skills around emotional literacy and regulation.

So we know that student and Katie I totally agree on the idea of quantity over quality and pushing through and numbers based and all of these things that are really feeding into the system right now. We know that students can't, they can't learn and retain academically if their nervous systems are not regulated, if they're not feeling calm, if they're not in their parasympathetic nervous system.

And so for me, when I think about the role of social-emotional learning and, and, uh, you know, all the discussion around it, the essential nature of it. We, we can't even get to academic learning, um, if we haven't laid this foundation first. So to me, it's 100 percent essential, and we can't, um, we can't solve for what's happening outside of the classroom, um, for kids. We can't solve what they're experiencing in their lives. We can't, we can't standardize that, right? 

We can't standardize what children are coming into our classrooms with, but we can make sure that there is a healthy foundation for all of them when they're in the classroom. And so the social skills, the emotional skills, giving them the tools to be able to take all of this outside of the classroom as well.

Okay, I'm learning here how I can understand the powerful emotions that I'm experiencing. I can understand and name what I'm going through in this moment I can understand how to work through and navigate big powerful emotions and because I'm doing that in the safety of my classroom with the support of my teacher, now I can take this outside of the classroom as well, and I can build on that at every stage of life.

So I guess coming back to your question, Jaclyn, and, like the role that this plays, to me, this is the equipping for life. Students are going to take academic skills into, they're going to, they're going to take that learning into, uh, so many different avenues, right? So many different careers, um, so many different contexts, but they're all going to be, they're all going to be human while they do it, right? They're going to need to be able to build healthy relationships. They're going to need to be able to problem-solve. They're going to need to be able to overcome really tough emotional situations. They're going to need to be able to overcome crisis.

They're going to need to be able to navigate complexity. Um, they're going to have to do all that with empathy or they're not going to thrive. You know, they're not going, they're not going to lead, um, successful lives and it's gonna, and everything that they're able to do, um, feeds out into the environment around them, right?

So it, it is this like exponential, uh, ripple effect as well. So I, I'm a little on a tangent. I'm not exactly even sure what's coming out right now, but like, why are, why are we doing this? It's our actual lives, right? Like it's the actual lives of these kids. And this is where we can touch all of them, right?

This is where we can meet all of them. Or as, as many as possible, right? And that's that's the power, for good or for ill, of the education system, which is why and I'm sure Katie, you're the same, which is why we entered a classroom to begin with.

Jaclyn: Yeah, Katie, anything you'd say back to that?

Katie: Yeah, I think, um, I mean, I just think these soft skills are so important.

Like, that's the human factor, right? Like we, we, our kids are all gonna grow up and leave the classroom and get jobs and meet people and interact and, um, this is like the future generation. Like how, how do we want to shape and impact the future generation? Um, I know, like, my vision for my students is that they're going to grow up and be kind and have beautiful families and happy lives, um, and in order to have that they need to learn, you know, how to regulate their own feelings and navigate different crises and conflicts that they will experience in life.

Like it's kind of non-negotiable. It's just a part of being, and I want them to be prepared, um, to, to handle all that and embrace all the beauty that life has to offer. Um, and it's harder to do that if you don't have those soft skills, like empathy and communication.

Jaclyn: This episode's being released for World Kindness Week, and, uh, as an organization, kindness.org is talking about the next generation. Katie, what would you say to the open-ended idea? What, what do you hope for, for the next generation?

Katie: I, I just really hope, I mean, I know, like, I'm very much a millennial. I know my generation is having a lot of challenges. Um, a lot of, a lot of mental health challenges.

Um, none of which was helped by the pandemic, but you can, you know, these are circumstances that we can't control. Um, and again, things like that pop up. It's a fact of life. Um, we're going to have challenges. Um, I just really hope that this next generation. I don't know, just embraces kindness more and really just takes better care of themselves and their minds.

I, I know myself and my peers, like we're workaholics, we're overstimulated, we're stressed. And I want to make sure that at least the kids that I have the opportunity to, to impact their lives, like I can share, you know, skills with them, um, so that they can, you know, regulate emotions and just navigate big feelings and challenges. And, yeah, just embrace more presence and, and more joy and be kind to one another and uplift each other. That's, that's really my dream for the future.

Jaclyn: Thank you. I love that.

Becca, we're a generation away from. What would you say to that?

Becca: Oh, it's just tough. Almost anything we really want to see, right? If we collectively do this thing. If we, if we collectively commit, um, then on a real level, we're a generation away from anything we'd want to see. Given realities of our world, um, and the systems that we're all sort of like running in, I think what I'm thinking about right now in this moment is, um, the creativity of, of our human essence.

And I think that, like, that's not represented anywhere better than in children. Like they are unhindered, just like power sources of creativity. When I think about the power of creativity, if it's not inhibited, if it's not beaten down, if it's not told it can, if it's not put into a check yes or no box, right? If it's not put into like a this is the right answer on a multiple choice test if it's not put through that machine. 

So thinking about like the power of creativity and creativity thrives when there's psychological safety, like when there's safety and freedom to be creative and this is what kids come into the world with.

And this is like the magic of the worlds that they build. Um, and if we are able to give them the tools and give them the spaces to allow that to be nurtured, to give them the kindness for them, toward themselves and others for that to be nurtured, yeah, we're one generation away from kids who have the inner muscles, the inner skills to create the solutions that we need.

But I don't know. This is, this is where I'm landing right now. There's something about the idea of, there's something about the idea of kindness in classrooms, kindness to self, and this sort of like protected space. Like if we can create that. Then we can nurture kids who, like, are able to retain, like, the potency of the power of their human essence, which is creativity, which is empathy, which is transcending differences, like, which is connection.

Do you know what I mean? Like, those are the things that can build, like, brand new cities and brand new countries, um, and I know that I sound like very idealistic, but it, I really believe that it's the truth, you know, um, it's, it just requires a collective effort and like a collective commitment, um, and where there's not that, then it, you know, it requires individual commitment, um, you know, and incredible impact comes from that too.

Jaclyn: Thank you.

Katie: That's, that's so valid. I, I know for a fact that those environments of psychological safety do exist, like in microcosms, like all over the place. Like there are super positive workplace cultures that exist where people aren't afraid to share their ideas and collaborate and just don't have that same fear of like looking like a fool or being judged. And like in classrooms, like I know that's what I aim for with my students, like I want them to have permission to be silly and throw ideas out there and ask questions.

Like no question is stupid, there's always like, yeah, I just, I love what you said. I think that if we can amplify, you know, those microcosms of safety and create a world where people do feel safer to throw all these ideas out, like we're gonna be unstoppable, like what could there's gonna be so much amazing things that comes from that.

Um, Because humans are incredible. We're capable of so much and especially when we're able to combine and work together.

Becca: And I think, going back to something that you said before, that was I think, so generous and kind, um, about like you know, you said that I was willing to try to find a solution rather than throwing the towel in.

When I think about, like, the things, there is so much that feels impossible. Like, that feels impossible. And, I have to believe that overcoming, I don't exactly know how to say it, I have to believe that it is possible to, I have to believe it's possible to solve the things, um, you know, to find, to find real solutions to the things that are creating so much pain, um, in the world right now.

I, I have to believe that there are solutions to long-standing systemic problems. And yeah, how do we get there? You know, kindness is, it's essential on so many levels, not the least of which is creating the environments for those solutions to be created, you know.

Jaclyn: We're going to be winding down soon and I want to be so respectful of your time Katie, but one thing I did want to um do as we um head into wrapping up mode.

Um, was actually see if either of you had a question for each other. Um, so Bec, I don't know if there's anything you'd want to ask Katie that she might not have gotten to speak to, and then Katie same thing.

Becca: I, well, yeah, here's a question. I mean, I've got a lot, but let me just ask this one. Um, What is, what's the most magical moment that you've had as a teacher? I know you've had a lot.

Katie: Yeah, that's a tough one because there are just so many. That's kind of a practice that I've made as well is trying to like identify positives each day. So I mean, even today like I could identify a few. 

I think there's one, this has been like a multi-year challenge in my class. I do, I do have a student with, um, who's nonverbal, um, and forming connections in my class between all of my students, including my nonverbal student, has been challenging because that child's communication is very different. Um, I think seeing my students very organically find ways to reach out and connect with that child has been one of the most magical things I've seen over the past few years.

Just that continuous effort to connect and understand. And I can't even take credit for that because I've, at the start, I didn't even know how to facilitate those relationships or connections. Um, and I had ideas of things to try, but what honestly has worked best is just letting my students. take lead.

Um, and I've learned so much from them as well about, yeah, just connection and empathy and understanding. And I just, yeah, it's such a special little community that we have here. Um, and seeing that has been amazing.

Becca: It's their essence, you know? Yeah. Really, really good. It's really special. 

Jaclyn: And then for you, Becca, I'm curious.

Um, so I just love Learn Kind and everything that you've built. I am curious about like your future. What do you see for Learn Kind and do you have anything else you're maybe working on or I'm, I'm just curious.

Becca: Oh, that's a really good question. What can I say? Well, so right now, right now for us, the goal is to, you know, we, we ran a, a randomized controlled trial study on the impact of the curriculum last year to understand, okay, you know, it's, it's in classrooms. Um, you know, it's, it's impacting students, we hope, but what does the impact look like?

And, um, I actually don't know how much I can speak to it, um, at the moment because we're still in sort of, uh, final analysis of the, of the full long-term study, but I'll, I'll just say that the results that came back in, um, the first phase of the study were incredibly validating, kind of blew us away.

And, um, completely, uh, well, put us in a position to say, okay, like now, now the goal is to get this into as many students hands as possible. Now we know the impact that, um, it's making specifically now that we know the effect it's having. So that is, um, sort of immediate goal is we've laid the foundation.

Now we want to get it into as many classrooms as possible. Yeah, some things shaking and baking, but the immediate goal is to, is to really kind of blow the lid off of it right now.  Now that we, now that we have the research to back it up,

Jaclyn: We like to say, like history, math, science, kindness, you know, it should just be as equal footing, equal billing as any core thing that you think of when you send your child to school.

Um, so how does learn kind become just a standard part of the K through 8 landscape? Integrated into all schools everywhere. Big, big things, Katie.

Becca: That's a much better answer than I gave. Yes. No, I'm gonna, I need to take like elevator pitch lessons from Jaclyn. That was so good. Like, yep, that's what I meant.

Jaclyn: Um, but the shaking and baking, I wish we could unpack that, but do we have five hours? Do we have dinner? Can we?

Becca: Don't be thrown off. Don't be intimidated by the language that I bring to the conversation.

Jaclyn: I love it.

Jaclyn: So we end with, um, kind of like a round robin of, of questions. Um, so I'll just say, like, a question and then throw it to one of you and then to the other to just answer.

Um, okay. All right. So Becca, define kindness in one word.

Becca: Oh, well, empathy was the first one that came to mind and I can't not say it today. 

Jaclyn: There we go. 

Becca: Changes every day, but empathy.

Jaclyn: All right, Katie?

Katie: Respect.

Jaclyn: Katie, if you could get everyone around the world to do one kind act today, what would that kind act be?

Katie: Stand up to an unkindness or an injustice when you see it.

Jaclyn: Becca, what kind act would you have everyone around the world do?

Becca: I would have them tell the truth that they're afraid to tell, uh, whether that's to themselves or someone else.

Jaclyn: What book are you listening to or reading right now, Becca?

Becca: Um, oh goodness, well, if I'm being honest, I've started, like, I have like, four books that I am like, reading.

Um, but The Alchemist, over and over again, right now. That's a good one.

Jaclyn: That's a good one. Katie?

Katie: I love a beach read. Um, So, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, is what I'm currently reading.

Jaclyn: Oh! Don't know anything about it.

Katie: It's a quintessential just beach read. It's... Great.

Jaclyn: If kindness were a song, what would it be? Becca, I'll ask you first.

Becca: Oh, this is like my kryptonite type of question. I have to tell you, and this is, Melissa, do not use this, but Celebrate is the first, heaven help me, it's the first thing that came to mind. Tell me why. I don't know why.

Jaclyn: We are using it because it's celebrate World Kindness Week. There we go.

Becca: There we go. It's absolutely not, but this is, we're, this is no longer like a quick answer.

So we're, sure, use it. Great, Katie. Save us. 

Jaclyn: Katie.

Katie: Mine is probably more embarrassing. I chose, um, All Star by Smash Mouth. Um, I just watched Shrek again for the first time in years and I was listening to it and I'm just like, this whole song is just like an affirmation. Like, I love it.

Jaclyn: I'll have to go listen to it after this. I don't know. Um, okay.

Becca: Jaclyn.

Jaclyn: Yes.

Becca: I have to kick that question to you.

Jaclyn: Well, unfortunately, I'm singing Celebrate now in my head, so it's really hard to get that out of my mind. 

Um, I like, always go to I Wanna Dance with Somebody and I just feel like, yeah, you can, can't go wrong with Whitney. Um, she just, I think, brings joy into everything. And that's just been like top of my list to just like, feel good.

Okay, so Katie, you're no longer a teacher, can be doing anything else in the world. What would you be doing?

Katie: This is so closely related to teaching, I feel, but I feel like that's just who I am as a human. Um, I would love to like start a community garden and just have, um, yeah, just different kind of community events and presentations and stuff that I can facilitate surrounding that garden.

I would love that.

Jaclyn: I love that. Becca?

Becca: I would be, well, I don't know that there is like a position, um, for what I would be doing, but it would be something in the probably wellness space that involves creating environments for self-discovery and enlightenment and transformation. Using a variety of modalities, whatever you want to call that, uh, job. That's, you know, probably be something along those lines.

Jaclyn: Doesn’t that sound so professional and good?

So legit. That's like a real buy, Rebecca. I love it. 

Becca: You can open with that if you want.

Jaclyn: Um, okay. Any final thing you want to say in closing? Um, that you didn't get to say, Katie.

Katie: I guess, just, I, I just want to express that I'm like such a fan girl of everything that kindness.org and Learn Kind is presenting and bringing to the world. Um, kindness and empathy and, um, wanting to uplift other humans is the very core reason why I entered education. Um, I just aligned so deeply with everything that you are bringing forward. And I just really hope that, um, yeah, more teachers and parents and educators really just in any capacity can find this platform and, and utilize it because I think it just brings so much good.

Um, it's just such a great tool. It's like one of the best I've found, like throughout my teaching career. And yeah, I just, I love it. And, and thank you for inviting me onto this podcast and allowing me to discuss, um, this with you. I'm just so honored and grateful.

Becca: Back at you, Katie.

Jaclyn: Thank you. Thank you for being here.

Thank you for the work you're doing in the classroom. Becca, any final thoughts that you didn't get to say?

Becca: Yeah. Well, Katie, that means like a lot and really, really lands. So thank you. And beyond that, thank you for the work that you're doing every day. And thank you. I love that you have been with these students for how many years now?

Katie: This is my third year with them.

Becca: Third year, that's, it's so special. Um, yeah, thank you for putting stakes in the ground, um, in this work, because this is like the, you talked about gardening, and it's like exactly what it is. It is like cultivation and planting seeds, and it's patient, and it's nurturing, and it's creating the environment for, like, the natural goodness to come about.

And it is... hard work and it's not incentivized and it's not, um, you have to overcome things to do it. And, but it's, it's like the core of it all. And I just, feel really, I know that you are, you're like a representation of so many people making like a profound difference in the world, like, right now, today, and I know that it doesn't always feel like that, um, but that is, like, that is the truth and reality.

So, um, thank you. I just feel like a lot of gratitude in my heart right now. And then the last thing I would say is that, um, sometimes it is, like, the simplest things that as a, in one moment, and as a practice, um, really can change the course of a life. Um, and obviously, I'm talking about kindness as a practice right now, but I, yeah, it sometimes it is like the simple thing that makes the biggest impact.

Jaclyn: And we always end on action. Um, uh, we're so excited to bring the mission to life in this way with the podcast. It's a chance to uncover stories of kindness across all environments, from all perspectives, but it always is about ending with the choice of kindness, that we all can choose it or not. I think you said that at the start, Katie, and, um, bringing it full circle.

I'll just invite both of you to think about someone that's coming to your mind, your heart, that you want to reach out to and let them know what they mean to you. Um, and sometimes we'll close where we'll call the person, but I think in this instance, if you just want to share who's coming to your mind and then would ask that you would just take a moment to intentionally reach out and let them know you're thinking about them and why they matter to you.

Um, so Becca, who's coming to mind for you?

Becca: My sister Emily is the first person that comes to mind and I have, we have always been, close. Um, but I, in like the last few weeks, months, I've been sort of, um, I don't know. I just have like a new, it happens every so often, just like a new appreciation for the role that she plays in my life and like the importance of the constancy of her love, like just goes deeper.

Like, you know. Every passing month and year, it just becomes more precious. And I've been, it's just been like top of heart, top of mind here recently. And I haven't told her that in so many words, so I'm going to.

Jaclyn: Thank you. We love you, Emily. Katie, who's coming to mind for you?

Katie: So, um, provide a little context for this.

Um, So about a year and a half ago, my dad, he's the one I'm thinking of, um, was diagnosed with ALS, um, Lou Gehrig's disease, um, which is degenerative, it's not curable, um, we know the direction that this is going, it's, it's been really challenging for our family, but, um, one thing that I've been reflecting on recently is, you know, it's, it's my turn to like step up and support him. Um, and I'm, I've been able to do that.

Um, but I don't think I've actually like sat with him and just expressed how incredibly grateful I am that he is my dad and how present he's been through my whole life and how supportive and I, I just really want to make sure that he knows that. So I think I'm going to call him after this and just articulate that explicitly.

Um, I, I show him in other ways, but I think actually just saying it is important too. Um, I want him to know how much he means to me, how much I love him.

Jaclyn: It's beautiful. Thank you. Thank you so much for joining us on this week's episode of the Why Kindness? podcast, sponsored by our friends at Verizon. To learn more about everything you heard today from our wonderful guest, definitely check out our show notes.

We hope you're leaving this episode inspired and reminded that every kind act truly does make a difference. We'd love to hear how you're choosing kindness in your day to day. We write back to every email, so let us know what you think. And please leave a review on Apple podcasts or Spotify. This podcast is one of the many ways we live out our organization's mission to educate and inspire people to choose kindness.

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Please tune in next time as we continue to explore this big question. Why kindness?