When school started up two weeks ago, one of my roles involved reviewing the school handbook with my homeroom students. I co-advise a homeroom with a colleague and so on day two, she reviewed the “Expectations and Guidelines for Student Behavior.” (Fun!) Policies on bullying, disorderly conduct, after school detention, suspension, disrespectful behavior to others, blah, blah, blah. And after every new reviewed point, my colleague would conclude with “Just be nice. Everything boils down to JUST BE NICE.”
Just be nice.
Since then, I’ve adopted those three little words as my motto and as the motto of my classroom. I shout it out to my students as they leave class,
Just be nice.
Yeah, I know. It sounds dumb and simple and naïve, but that’s not stopping me from trying. And I know full well that I have to model the niceness too, some of which is completely natural to me. Picking up pencils when they fall on the floor. Offering kind words to someone who looks like they’re about to burst into tears any second. Paying forward a little kindness by offering to run off papers for a colleague or watching a class so someone can make that quick phone call.
But other times, not going to lie, it’s HARD to be nice. It’s hard to be nice when the same student asks me the same question
Or when, after a full day of work and several hours of tutoring and chauffeuring and making dinner and bathtimes and bedtimes, my daughter’s attitude rears its tired and ugly head. Or when my husband doesn’t close the dresser drawers—again. Or my son wants me to play Legos when I am falling asleep standing up after a long day.
Or when my life is scheduled down to the minute and I have twenty minutes to run in to Walmart, pick up a prescription, and run out and THEY DON’T HAVE IT READY.
Yeah, it’s tough to be nice. Two weeks into school and I am already wiped. There are times I would much rather find a hole to cry in than smile and answer questions and curb errant behavior and help my daughter with her homework.
But I’m trying to do it anyway.
(Oh, and just so we’re clear—being NICE does not mean being a PUSHOVER. I firmly believe that there is such a thing as being too nice. And that it has an adverse affect on the spread of kindness . But more on that in a future post.)
And here’s what I find, guys. On the days when the nice factor isn’t as strong, when I don’t feel like being nice but I force a smile and a helpful attitude anyway, the more I pretend to be nice, the easier and more believable and real it feels. Not all the time. But most of the time it makes me feel a little better.
So, just be nice.
I’ll have bad days. My students will have bad days. My family will have bad days. But working toward and modeling perpetual niceness may just be a little contagious. Maybe my students will hear Mrs. Miller in their head the next time they’re thinking about making a bad choice. Maybe they’ll want to do something kind for others. Maybe they’ll work a little harder on being nice.
Or maybe not.
But this whole just being nice thing is working for me.
So, how have YOU been nice to someone lately?
Too often kindness is relegated to a random act performed only when we’re feeling good. But an even greater kindness (to ourselves and others) occurs when we reach out even when we aren't feeling entirely whole. It’s not easy, and no one is perfect. But we’ve decided it’s not impossible to brighten the world one smile, one kind word, one blog post at a time. To that end, a few of us writers have established The Kindness Project, starting with a series of inspirational posts.