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Peter DeWitt's

Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Think Kids Don’t Have Compassion? Read This.

By Peter DeWitt — November 02, 2014 3 min read
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Compassion, integrity and empathy are more than just words. They are traits that everyone should embody...but we know that does not always happen. Unfortunately, we do not hear enough about these traits in our youth. As some of us get older, it gets easier to remark that kids have changed. It’s a rite of passage for us, because we heard the same thing from older people when we were young.

Let’s face it, we hear that kids have shorter attention spans, use their phones too much, and only care about themselves. After spending 19 years in the world of elementary education...I don’t believe that is true.

Sure, kids use their phones to text, Tweet and whatever else is new and hip these days. But many kids rise to the challenge of being good-hearted people...maybe even more than the adults who surround them. We are surrounded by examples of adults in role model positions who shouldn’t be provided with the pedestal, but if we look closer we will see kids who are much more worthy of the attention.

The Bulldogs and the Spartan

We all know it’s election time across the country, and no matter where you live you are most likely exposed to attack ads after attack ads. It’s enough to make us disrespect politicians even more, and it certainly inspires us to turn off the television and go somewhere to escape from the noise.

It’s probably why a story out of my hometown resonated with me so much.

Recently, I read a story regarding a text in the Post Star (which you can read here). It involved a gesture made by one high school girl’s soccer team toward their rival. We all know how gestures can go...but it’s not the one you think.

You may think it has to do with a soccer team filled with athletes who text some sort of inappropriate or controversial text to the opposing team, but it wasn’t like that at all. It was far in the opposite direction. The headline said, “Rivalry quiets as South High team offers support for Queensbury player who lost father.”

Upon hearing that Queensbury sophomore Sarah Logan lost her dad after a two-year battle with brain cancer, the South Glens Falls Bulldogs soccer team texted a picture of the whole team dressed in gray, the color dedicated to brain cancer, to Sarah. They titled it “Sarah Logan Strong.”

It gives me goose bumps to think of the picture.

Post Star writer Meg Hagerty wrote, “A day after John’s death, the girls assembled for their team dinner dressed in gray -- the designated color for brain cancer -- and snapped a photo that they texted to Sarah. They captioned it, “Sarah Logan Strong.”

Hagerty went on to write,

The South High girls were inspired to take the photo after the Queensbury team rallied around Sarah last May during Brain Tumor Awareness Month. At that time, the Spartans dressed in gray and had the high school principal take a picture that was given to the Logan family."

Everyone reading this has no doubt been affected by cancer. I lost my dad to it when I was 11, and my mom (colon) and sister (breast) are both cancer survivors. We don’t get to use the word “survivors” often enough when we refer to cancer, but what we can do is celebrate a team that looked passed a rivalry in order to support someone on an opposing team who is going through one of the hardest times she will probably ever see. We can look to, and think of, a young woman who lost her dad way too young, much like my dad so long ago.

What we can also do is make sure we are posting these stories on our Facebook pages and sharing them through Twitter, because we all have to deal with enough bad news in our lives. We need to combat the idea that kids have really changed, as if that is for the worse, and focus on the fact that so many kids that are younger than us can teach us a lot about compassion, integrity and empathy.

They say that bad news travels fast, and we all know it does. Thankfully, as sad as part of this story is, it teaches us that during tough times kids can do the right thing. After a year that seemed to focus on many negative aspects of professional sports, this story exemplifies the idea that high school athletes can teach their professional and well-paid counterparts a thing or two.

Post some positive thoughts on your Facebook page. Tweet some high quality stories out to your followers and PLN. Show how our youth are sometimes our best role models. Do it for Sarah. Do it for two soccer teams that showed what sportsmanship is all about.

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The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.