A “KEG” for Home, School and Classroom

Watching the Super Bowl commercials, I noticed lots of kegs of beer images.  So, I looked up the definition.  A keg is a small barrel.  Traditionally, a wooden keg is made by a cooper and used to transport items such as nails, gunpowder, and a variety of liquids.”  (Wikipedia)

I noticed that “keg” had three letters that I could use for this blog on characterKINDNESS, EMPATHY, and GRATITUDE.

I want to remind you once again that:

  • Character (including KEG) is learned.  
  • Character is about relationships, social skills, and emotional self-discipline. 
  • Character is about choices (decision-makingthe ones we make dailyto be good or bad, to be ethical or unethical, to be kind or unkind, to be empathic or not, and to be grateful or not.) 
  • Character is taught to the young by the entertainment and advertising industries, by the media and Internet, by politicians (i.e., Congress), by the environment they live in, by their peers and role models, and by their parents, teachers, schools, youth agencies, and religious institutions. 

KINDNESS is the motivation to be kind to others; the recognition of kindness in others; and engaging in kind behavior daily.”

You have heard and used the popular sayings such as “random acts of kindness,” and “the domino effect,” or “pay it forward.”  To do either one or all three, we need to know what these three pro-social behavior words mean. 

I recently read a blog by Dr .David Hamilton who, citing the research, noted that there are “five beneficial side effects of kindness—it makes us happier, it gives us healthier hearts, it slows aging, it makes for better relationships, and is contagious.”

Jill Suttie writing in Greater Good Magazine reports that a “new study finds that when we witness kindness, we’re inspired to be kind ourselves.  When we see someone being kind or generous, it gives us a warm glow feeling inside.  Researchers call this ‘moral elevation,’ and it not only feels good but inspires us to want to do good ourselves.”

In his book, “How to Raise Kind Kids and Get Respect, Gratitude, and A Happier Family in the Bargain,” Thomas Lickona writes, “Kindness obviously matters a great deal in schools, where children can experience either acceptance and friendship or ejection and abuse, depending on whether a culture of kindness prevails in classrooms and the school as a whole.”

EMPATHY is the “ability to put aside your ego, step into someone else’s shoes and experience their emotions, and to perceive the world through that person’s eyes.”

Sam Chaltain, a partner at 180 Studio, a global design collaboration, wrote a blog titled “The Empathy Formula,” which is E = EC2, a formula that shows three different ways a person can convey empathy.  

  • “The first is ‘cognitive empathy,’ or the act of knowing how another person feels.  
  • The second is ‘emotional empathy,’ or the capacity to physically feel the emotions of another.  
  • The third is ‘compassionate empathy,’ which is what occurs when we combine the previous two in the name of acting upon what we think and feel.”

In her book, “UNSELFIE: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World,” Michele Borba says that her goal was “to create a conversation that makes us rethink our view of success as exclusively grades, rank and score, and includes traits of humanity!  It’s time to include empathy in our parenting and teaching if we hope to prepare children to succeed and thrive in our global new world.”

Neuroscience researchers have found, among other things, that “stress and negative classroom associations impair learning; that motion surpasses cognition; that supportive relationships enhance learning; and that a caring teacher who minimizes classroom conflict positively impacts student achievement.”

One of the key lessons we can teach and model in our classrooms is that “the most important achievements and the greatest happiness are to be found in helping others.” 

Carol Ann Tomlinson and Michael Murphy (The Empathetic School, Educational Leadership, March 2018) write:  Findings from all these disciplines call on a teacher to understand students’ classroom experiences and to orchestrate positive classroom experiences—to see school through the students’ eyes and to respond in ways that minimize negative experiences and maximize positive ones.  Therefore, an empathetic school would place the highest value on not only caring about those who spend much of their lives in schools, but also caring for them.” 

GRATITUDE is “being aware of and thankful for the good things that happen in your life and taking the time to express appreciation and return kindness.”

UC Davis psychologist Robert Emmons and University of Miami psychologist Michael McCullough have written about an “upward spiral” that gratitude creates in various dimensions of life.  As they wrote in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (2003), “gratitude is effective in increasing well-being as it builds psychological, social, and spiritual resources….Gratitude appears to build friendships and other social bonds….Gratitude, like other positive emotions, broadens the scope of cognition and enables flexible and creative thinking, it also facilitates coping with stress and adversity.…Gratitude not only makes people feel good in the present, but it also increases the likelihood that people will function optimally and feel good in the future.” 

Psychotherapist Amy Morin, writing in Forbes (November 23, 2014) has elaborated on several scientifically backed benefits of practicing gratitude.  It opens the door to more meaningful relationships, improves physical and psychological health, enhances empathy, reduces aggression, improves sleep, increases self-esteem, and increases mental strength.”

Other studies have noted “people who experience ‘gratitude’ have more positive emotions (joy, love, happiness), exhibit fewer negative emotions (bitterness, envy, resentment), and have greater feelings of connectedness (relationships), more hope, and better physical health.”

I am grateful that you have taken the time to read this blog and would be pleased to read your thoughts and questions.  

Email: character@sandiego.edu 

Ed DeRoche, Director, Character Education Resource Center, Department of Learning & Teaching, School of Leadership & Education Sciences, University of San Diego, BLOG, February 2021.


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