This is a post that comes from the heart. As some of you know, I'm a high school English teacher. I'm 29 years old and spend time on Facebook and Instagram. I hate to say it but I see the worst in people. I read the comments online, I hear the nasty things students say to each other. But I also have hope. Without hope, I would have no faith in our society or our world to get better. To do better.
I have hope that these 17-18 year olds will grow up. They will learn to regret what they said to someone. They will feel bad that they didn't speak up when someone was hurt. Without that hope, I wouldn't be able to continue teaching them. But I've seen these kids come back, I follow them (limited) on Facebook and I see what they are becoming. That's how I bring myself to teach.
I remember one time applying for a job and they asked me what quote really explains who I am. I stumbled and couldn't think of anything at the time. Quote? My mind was blank. Since that moment every week, I put a "Quote of the Week" on the board. Normally they are vaguely inspirational as I'm trying to convince my students to care. But then I listened to myself talk to them. I heard myself continue saying, "Think about how your actions are making so-and-so feel" or "be nice" or "stop talking about them if they aren't around". At the end of it, I realized every time I chastised a student it's because they were not being kind.
Raising our kids to care, to express empathy, to want to make the world better. These are the traits that will help them. They don't need to be the smartest, the most athletic, or the best-looking. Instead, teach them to be kind.
People Don't Learn by Being Called Idiots
We can take this basic human principle to those that disagree with us too. If you are someone who believes unbelievably deeply about regenerative agriculture, you should not tell the person who believes in row farming that they are wrong. Instead, be kind. Ask them why they believe what they do, in a PRIVATE message start up a conversation. But never once tell them what to believe. Be kind.
I loved what I heard on the Rural Woman podcast in an episode (I wish I could remember which!) where the person being interviewed said something along the lines of, "People don't learn by being called an idiot." When you insult someone, they shut down and stop listening.
Recently this happened to me in a discussion board. I asked a question and within minutes was called a few mean names. I left that group. Why would I stick around if I was called names? It should be the same as advocating for agriculture. Although I know the people reading this probably don't need the reminder. Be kind.
Farming Breeds Kindness
I personally think that farming families are lucky since their lifestyle seems to create kindness. Every kid who is around animals learns to be kind. I genuinely believe most farmers/ranchers are teaching that. They are the ones who learned to appreciate the animal for what it gives us, but it deserves a good life in the meantime. Animal rights activists may disagree, but almost everyone who works with an animal treats them with kindness.
I'm glad I know you all (and if I don't know you, come find me! I love new friends - and I mean that). I'm glad that you are raising the next generation. I trust you will raise them to be kind. Kind to their friends, their parents, those "weird" kids, their animals. Raise them to be kind and I promise I will continue to have faith that they will grow up. They will learn to be kind because they have you to teach them.