Inspired by the song, “Queen of Mean” from Descendants 3, I am reminded that being nice may result in not so fairy tale endings.
It’s the beginning of the school year, and all over social media there are memes that inform young people to be nice to others at school this year. They are to be nice to students who are different from them. They are to be nice to all kids, no matter what situation the young person may be. They are to be nice to their teachers. I have to be honest. I loathe the word, “Nice.” I’ve been nice, and the results have never been positive. It doesn’t mean we have to be the opposite. Maybe, we should all be something that is actually how we want others to treat us.
The Google definition of “Nice,” is pleasant, agreeable, and satisfactory, or even fine and subtle. As a teacher, I want my students to go beyond satisfactory and become superior. I do not always want them to be agreeable. They need to disagree in order to have their own opinions. I definitely do not want my students to be subtle. I can see through their subtlety and realize that they are just doing the work for a grade, or with disdain.
What we really want people to be is KIND. Kindness is the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate, according to the Google dictionary. We can be kind and not become a doormat for people to step on, wipe their feet, and walk away, which is when we are being nice. Being kind means we actually have to interact with someone and understand their point of view without agreeing with it. Being kind means we actually will have conversations with people who are different from us or think differently from us.
Jesus was kind. He didn’t allow others to walk on Him as many perceive that he did. Jesus was generous and considerate. He was never rude. Mean is not the opposite of kind. Rude is. It’s interesting that we want to teach our young people to be nice or kind, but we as adults are rude and mean to others. We may only do it when we hide behind a computer screen, but our young people are watching. Some of my friends even cheer for those who are rude and mean and then demand that the rest of us be kind. We cannot tell others to be kind unless we are kind ourselves. We must set the example for others as Christ set the example for us.
Our young people today are actually wiser than they were “back in the day.” They see and hear what adults are doing. Very few of them encounter kindness in their lives. We can tell them to be the different child at school and be kind, but what a better world it would be if we would also work on our own kindness. We need the next generation to be better than us. We need them to do better than us. We cannot just expect it to come out of nowhere. We must set the example. Every day I step into the classroom, I have to remind myself to be kind. There are some days when my students make that very easy, and there are other days, in which they make that very difficult. It is my goal this year to be kind and to respond with kindness. I hope I can do it. Oh, by the way, I would be okay if my students chose to be “nice” to me. I’ll just try to teach them to be kind instead.