On the fourth day of school, one of my first-graders was rocking in his
and fell out of it. Several
of his classmates laughed. There was one dissenting voice, however: a girl,
not yet six years old, objected, ďItís not nice to laugh. He might be hurt.Ē
There were three things I wanted to do immediately: (1) make sure that
the boy was not hurt (he wasnít); (2) show appreciation for the compassion
of his one classmate; (3) conduct a class discussion about concern for
the feelings of others in situations such as this.
Children watch a lot of television and movies. In both live action and
cartoons, there is a tremendous amount of screen time given to people falling,
dropping things, getting wet, and other forms of physical comedy created
for the amusement of the audience.
Young children have not had enough experience to distinguish among these
differing situations. It seems perfectly natural, therefore, for six-year-olds
to assume that since it is all right to laugh at the people they see on
the screen, that it is all right to laugh at people who do the same things
right in front of them.
At that moment, I thought about a song that was fairly new to me at that
time. I had recently discovered a book entitled Love Can Build a Bridge,
by Naomi Judd. It included a cassette with The Judds singing the song by
the same name. I was attracted to the text as well as the winsome illustrations:
children of many cultures shown helping each other.
I played the cassette and showed the pictures. The lyrics include these:
ďLove can build a bridge between your heart and mine. Love can build a
bridge. Donít you think itís time? Donít you think itís time?Ē
Almost every day since then, somebody in the class asks me to play it so
the class can sing along. I think it will be a way for me to help get across
the message of caring for others during the current school year.
This column has been incorporated and expanded in Teach Your Children
Well: A Teacherís Advice for Parents.