Yesterday I had special opportunities to inject some real world wisdom into music classes for second, first and kindergarteners. It happened unexpectedly, as we discussed the value of being kind to other people, whether or not they have been kind to you.

Because I don’t think that every second of a music class must be dedicated to music, I took that as a signal to write, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” on the white board. All three grades had trouble with “unto” and I probably should have abbreviated it with “to.” It’s tough being a purist.

In any case, a very sharp second grader compared this to karma and I agreed that it was a similar concept. What surprised me was that no-one had yet told any of these children about the golden rule. That can no longer be said.

Hillel the Elder was a Jewish scholar and biblical commentator who coined a famous interpretation of the golden rule. He said, “What is hateful to you don’t do to another. This is the whole Torah [Old Testament]; the rest is commentary.”

This is my favorite interpretation in its simplicity and suitability for perpetuation in elementary school.

We discussed the concept in all three classes and I was quite pleased with the understanding that we reached. Kids are innately inclined to work well with others, whether in academic pursuits or at play. As we proceeded to games, I explained that if you play a game, you need to be as good a loser as you are a winner.

Once again, the importance of teaching non-academic wisdom became apparent to me. Kids immediately warmed up to the concept of treating others with kindness and respect, not only because it was the right thing to do, but also because it made reciprocity possible and inevitable.

For those who may want to suggest that I hang up my teaching title and spend all my time writing, this is why I am still in the classroom. Ultimately, I hope that my writing dispenses the type of learning that I can offer in the classroom. Until then, we’ll continue with the golden rule. Shalom.

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