Raising inclusive kids
How do we nurture empathy and understanding across racial and other differences in the children we care for and in each other? In the aftermath of a high profile tragedy that might have been prevented, educator Ferial Pearson approached her students with the fledgling idea of becoming Secret Kindness Agents. Together they created a kindness protocol and practice that grew and spread to other schools, households and communities across the country. Ferial joins us to share how they did it and how others can create this positive feedback loop in families and communities large and small.
Ferial Pearson was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, to a Muslim family of South Asian and Northeast African heritage. She immigrated to the U.S. for college, the first in her immediate family to earn a higher degree. Ferial went on to teach English and Reading to high school students in Nebraska for over a decade. She received many awards for her work, including the National Education Association’s Virginia Uribe Award for Creative Leadership in Human Rights in 2012, the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network’s Educator of the Year Respect Award in 2011, and the Kennedy Center’s Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher award in 2016.
In 2012, concerned about a lack of empathy models in public life, she brought the idea of the Secret Kindness Agents project to her students. Not only were they game, they joined her to create a project and a school culture that surpassed the outcomes she’d hoped for. Their project became the subject of a book, a TEDx Talk, and is now the focus of Ferial’s dissertation work. (Update: Also check out this article about using Secret Kindness Agents in the classroom.)
Ferial lives in Ralston, Nebraska with her husband Daniel, son Ilahi, and daughter Iman.
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