Musings from the Plains
A staple of every school that I have taught in is the staff farewell session on the last day. This year was no different. As the speeches started rolling in, one thing emerged and that was a theme of kindness and acknowledgement. It was great to acknowledge our peers who helped us and learnt with us but the 'feel good' factor was how kind and generous everyone was.
It made me think about the role of kindness in the schools. Am I kind? What does that mean? How does that look in practice? Is kindness only talking to everyone gently? Is it just being concerned for someone when they are in your class or in front of you?
Can we tap into kindness to help our wards become better learners?
Establish a relationship through kindness
By showing them kindness during their times of distress especially when they have not got that concept for the umpteenth time whilst the class has moved on or when they have forgotten their homework or equipment or so on. Yes, there is a need to teach them discipline, but remember forgetting a few times in the bigger scheme of things is not important. Even when you have a persistent behavioural issue, often kindness in the face of adversity can help that child become more empathetic, even though they might not show that at the time. As Dr Stanley Greenspan suggests empathy comes often when children are empathised with.
Below are some direct benefits of being kind, children have (Sourced from the RAK Foundation)
What about staff?
Lest we forget, the other main body in schools, staff. It is equally important to be kind to them and often this is quite difficult. I'm sure there have been times when we all haven't been as kind as we could to a colleague. Some of you might think tough love can't be avoided at times. Maybe, but there are always better ways to deal with situations than criticism or just ignorance. Often forgiving someone's mistake is good leadership. They probably have punished themselves in their head countless times. We often don't compliment people enough as it is much easier to pick on things they do wrong. As I tell my team, you might do ninety nine things right but that one thing you do wrong often gets stuck in people's head - Don't let it get stuck in yours. Care about your own well-being too. Don't criticise yourself if you do things wrong. Remember, we all are not perfect.
Is there need for kindness or empathy training in schools?
Perhaps but there is great deal more to gain through role modelling kindness both to students and staff from the top down. Not only will this create a better work environment but it will make you personally feel better and that surely is not a bad thing.
Some practical suggestions (student level - staff I leave to you)
I am sure you all can think of countless others. Feel free to tweet them at me (@KSThakral) or mention them in the comment section below.
*Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D., & Schellinger, K. B. (2011). The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions. Child Development, 82(1), 405-32.