Currently, I am teaching my kindergarten students about opinion writing, where they state their belief on a topic with a supporting reason(s). I teach them that there are three steps to forming an opinion:
- Think about it…
- Decide how you feel…
- Explain your decision with a reason…
When we are in our classroom, we have a sharing time at the end of writing where selected students read their opinions to the rest of the class. Students are encouraged to ask questions and give comments to the author.
There is one rule that I have when I am allowing my students to share their opinions with their classmates. We will not tell the student that their opinion is WRONG. There are no wrong opinions as long as you have reasons to support your stance. We respect all opinions and we will not argue with anyone whose opinion is different than ours because our opinions are shaped by our experiences.
For example, a few years ago a student wrote about her favorite president. It went something like this:
Abraham Lincoln is my favorite president because he is so handsome.
I am not sure about her past experience with President Lincoln but she met the rubric with that response by thinking, deciding and giving a reason.
In our country today, there are so many opinions being shared out there. Unfortunately though, many of us have forgotten the Kindergarten rule:
There are no wrong opinions as long as you have reasons to support your stance. We respect all opinions and we will not argue with anyone whose opinion is different than ours because our opinions are shaped by our experiences.
I am haunted by the images of George Floyd’s horrific death because no one deserves to be ignored. Yes, I just shared my opinion with you Kindergarten style.
By definition, ignore means “refuse to take notice of or acknowledge; disregard intentionally.”
We all have a human need to be noticed, acknowledged and intentionally regarded. From our opinions to our cries for help, we need others to say, “I hear you!”
According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the basic needs of safety and security come right after our physiological needs for food, water, warmth and rest. It is a human need to feel secure and safe. If you studied Maslow at any point in your life, you know that we can not get to the next level of “Belongingness and Love” if our basic needs are not being met.
So why are so many people angry right now? They are angry because their basic human needs or the needs of others are being denied or ignored. They do not feel safe and secure in their neighborhoods by the ones who are supposed to provide them with that very protection. Your opinion may be different because your experiences are different. Remember basic Kindergarten 101: Our opinions are shaped by our experiences.
Last night, I was moved to tears by the powerful gesture of the Boston Police Department when they took a knee to show their support with the peaceful protestors. It was not about which side was right or wrong. There was no judgement. It was a statement of “I hear you…”
I think it is time that more of us acknowledge others who have opinions that vary from our own with empathy rather than contempt. We have to listen to those whose experiences differ from our own and acknowledge them. We can just try responding with, “I hear you…”