Teacher Raya patrols a group of giggly kindergarten students, looking each so deeply in the eye that many squirm and bashfully reach for her toes.

Her father carries her in his arms. Raya is not quite five months old.

She’s teaching them about being kind and how to talk about their feelings so that later, they don’t terrorize each other.

Teacher Raya, as they call her, is a “volunteer” with Roots of Empathy, the country’s oldest and largest anti-bullying program. Kids in 900 classrooms around the province — 13 of them on First Nations reserves — are taking similar lessons from similarly beautiful babies. So are kids in New Zealand, Seattle, the Isle of Man. . .

It’s such a simple concept: if kids learn to empathize with babies — the most vulnerable humans — then their antennae for kindness will be turned on. Put another way, once they learn to worry about a baby’s feelings, they’ll start to worry about everyone’s.

In practical terms, over 27 lessons those thousands of kids, from kindergarten to Grade 8, settle around a baby and talk about emotions. Imagine that, in Puritan Canada! If the halls of Jamie Hubley’s school had been places where teenagers who discussed their feelings were celebrated rather than despised, then maybe his delicate life wouldn’t have ended so tragically.

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