"K" is for Kindness

by Mary Johnson, Children's Ministies and Director All Things Bright & Beautiful

Some corporate offices around the country are offering a refresher course to their employees under the heading of Social Emotional Learning. My daughter Molly sent me the article recently that highlighted this effort. It caught Molly's attention because it features the beloved characters of Sesame Street, a fond memory from her childhood. In the arena of Early Childhood Education, Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is a critical component of the curriculum. The use of the name itself did not appear in educational contexts until 1994 even though the core competencies of relationship skills, self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, responsible decision making, and relationship skills were being taught when Sesame Street debuted November 10, 1969. So how did Sesame Street teach Social Emotional Learning?

Self-Awareness: According to Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), it is important to recognize your emotions and accurately perceive your strengths and limitations. Kermit the Frog does that so well. He knows how to name his emotions. "It's not easy being green!"

Social Awareness: So many children's programs take place in a fairy tale world but Sesame Street was deliberate in telling their stories in an urban setting. With segments like "who are the people in your neighborhood," children were encouraged to be curious about their neighbors and appreciate all the ways they were alike as well as embrace their diversity.

Self-Management: Kermit was also very effective here with his song; "I made myself a promise as a young polliwog: I'll be on top." And with determination and self-discipline he made it!

Responsible Decision Making: CASEL defines this concept as the ability to make constructive choices about personal behavior. This can be a tough one for small children to grasp. But when you put it in the vernacular of a child, it can be as simple as knowing that it is important to brush your teeth after lunch before you go play. So the creators wrote the song "Kids Just Love to Brush." The song illustrates in a joyful (albeit over the top) way that you can achieve long- term benefits by making the right choice.

Relationship Skills: From Bert's and Ernie's domestic disputes to Grover's exasperation with customers at the restaurant, Sesame Street did not shy away from addressing relationships. Who can forget the gardeners singing "Cooperation Makes It Happen."?

The fact that some corporations see the need to provide remedial lessons on such basic concepts makes me question how, when, and why someone lost what was so foundational in early childhood. Why does it have to be outsourced? In the article Molly sent me, there was the image of an office worker with the caption: Sesame Street goes to the office to remind everyone that "K is for kindness."

I think it is admirable that some offices are offering this re-tooling to their staffs. It makes me appreciate even more the amazing gift I have to be able to work in and be a member of this community where kindness and compassion are the standard. From the welcoming and inspirational worship services, to the opportunities for outreach, you can make real friends here. And as Cookie Monster would tell you: "Friend better than chocolate ice cream......maybe friend somebody you give up last cookie for."