By Beth Pinyerd
It was winter 1986. I was a second-grade teacher at Carver Primary in the Opelika City School System. On Jan. 2, 1986, my husband and I became the proud parents of a baby boy, Gus.
When I returned to my classroom family in February as a mother as well as a teacher, I had gained a few more responsibilities. My husband had to get to his job earlier. My first winter challenge would be to scrape the ice off the windows of my car before dropping off Gus at the babysitter.
When I hurried down the steps to embark on this winter task, the windshield had been cleaned and scraped. I was touched with a warmth of hope and kindness but who had gotten up so early to do this? The next morning in the darkness of the winter morning, I peeked out my window and saw an elderly gentleman scraping off the ice.
It was my neighbor who understood the need of this young couple. That afternoon when I got home, I went to thank him. Each morning of that winter, this gentleman helped me to scrape the ice off my car windows as well as helping my son and myself to get in the car so I could get to school on time. His humble act of early morning kindness is one that stills warms my heart.
Young children are sensitive to extending random acts of kindness to others. When acts of kindness are modeled in front of them, they quickly catch on.
Guiding young children to hold the door open for others is such a delightful responsibility for young children. A big grin stretches across their face when they are properly thanked.
I love to hear a young child wish me a good day with no prompting or probing. For we parents, grandparents, and teachers, to receive a child made card of happiness is a child’s way of expressing happiness straight from their hands and hearts.
One idea that can be adopted to the classroom as well as at home is to keep your artificial Christmas tree up during January and February. Have children to draw and cut out paper snowflakes of kindness during January. In February, the children can draw and cut out hearts of kindness to hang from the tree. I have even done this with senior citizens in church as well as retirement villages and it keeps the heartbeat of kindness going through the winter months.
A delightful winter story I love to read to young students is “The Mitten,” which is a Ukranian folktale retold by Jan Brett. It’s about a young boy named Nicki.
He loses his mitten in the snow and the mitten becomes a host and home to a lot of different forest animals big and small to keep warm. Of course, the animals have to be considerate of each other as they snuggle into the mitten to keep warm. I use this book as a winter theme for friendship and kindness with my young students. There is always room in our hearts and our actions to be kind to others.
Planning kindness projects with your children such as preparing and taking warm meals to a family who have been sick or in need is a wonderful lesson for your children to feel and model kindness.
It may be helping another family by running errands or doing chores. These acts of kindness not only help the recipients of your help but it also helps you and your child.
As we reflect back on times that we have helped others it brings happiness to our whole being. Practicing acts of kindness for others melts away any kind of winter blues.
Aren’t we so thankful to God, who has been so kind to create a world for us to enjoy during these winter months. We just have to look around and see His hand and his heart.
Pinyerd has taught young children in the early childhood classroom for 34 years as well as outreaching to the elderly in intergenerational settings. She has taught and outreached in the schools in Opelika and Baldwin County. She holds a master’s degree in early childhood education as well as a bachelor’s degree in family and child development both from Auburn University. Her husband is the late Carl Pinyerd and she has one son, Gus Pinyerd who has taught her so much about learning. Classroom Observer is here to serve the community in sharing the wonderful teaching programs in our local public schools, private schools, and homeschools. The column is provided to enrich the education of our children, youth, and families. Classroom Observer welcomes educational news, school news, pictures, and events by e-mailing her at email@example.com.