A majority of parents and teachers who took a recent survey agreed that kindness is more important for children’s future than academic success, and nearly three-quarters of parents and almost four-fifths of teachers also said they often worry that “the world is an unkind place for children.”
Results of the survey, administered by the Sesame Workshop, come as schools increasingly focus on students’ social and emotional skills as well as their academic success. It also comes as some advocacy groups worry that harsh presidential campaign rhetoric has taken a negative toll on school climates.
“Sesame undertook this study because we, ourselves, felt that the world seemed to be lacking in empathy and were concerned what the long-term impact of that would be on children and society as children grow older,” Sesame Workshop CEO Jeffrey D. Dunn said in a statement. “This survey confirms our concerns. It is time to have a national conversation about kindness. We hope that this is a first step towards doing that.”
The online surveys, administered in July and August, included 500 pre-k through 6th grade teacher respondents and about 2,000 respondents who are parents of children ages 3-12.
But what does it really mean to be kind? And what can schools do to contribute to kindness?
In the survey, teachers and parents were more likely to say their own children were “kind” than to say they had qualities associated with kindness, such as being “thoughtful” and “helpful.”
Among parents, 59 percent rated their own child as “very kind,” 46 percent said their own child is “very thoughtful,” and 40 percent said their own child is “very helpful.” Among teachers, 73 percent said most of their class is “kind,” 52 percent said most of their class is “thoughtful,” and 65 percent said most of their class is “helpful.”
While a majority of parents who took the survey said their own child is “kind” or “very kind,” teachers seem to think parents have more work to do. Among teacher respondents, just 44 percent said “all or most parents are raising their children to be respectful,” and just 34 percent said “all or most parents are raising their children to be empathetic and kind.”
Does your school promote kindness? How should schools encourage such character qualities in the classroom? And how can educators work alongside parents in such efforts?
Image from promotion for Sesame Street’s 47th season, which focuses on kindness.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.