Updated: Feb 4
When Peter and I started speaking at schools five years ago, our focus was encouraging kindness and inclusion. We still emphasize this as Peter talks about how we all have similarities and differences and that it's important to take the time to get to know someone before making assumptions.
We expanded the message this year by teaching students how to be kind-- that it's more than just being nice. I created a 3-step process we call "How to be an Upstander". We've also broadened the conversation to include perspective. We explain that we are each writing our own story every day and, although we can't always control the content, we can choose the titles and value.
Peter encourages students to look at their own life and how they are writing it. He explains that he would like to remove surgeries from his story, but he can't. Instead, he chooses to make the titles positive: "Why it Stinks to have 30 Surgeries by 18" vs "How I'm Rocking My Life as a Metal Head!"
The words we choose for our stories are important because they're a reflection of our self-esteem. Peter sharing how he lives confidently with a facial difference motivates students to question how they see their own life and what they value.
If we want to encourage kindness in schools, we need to start by teaching kids how to be kind and accepting of themselves. They can't do that if they lack the courage and confidence to embrace their own differences, pursue their passions, and learn from their mistakes.
Confident students stand up to bullies and don't succumb to peer pressure. Cultivating a community of kindness at schools, therefore, needs to start with teaching kids their life has value and purpose.
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