Updated: Aug 10
‘Kindness’ (UPDATED FOR THURSDAY 9th JULY 2020)
It may well be the case that you read the blog below, or saw it on Twinkl or Twitter...in which case, you may be aware that it set off a bit of a 'chain' (or should I say, created 'ripples') across the Twitter group of educators I'm pleased to be associated with.
The response was so positive that I've decided to try a regular 'ripple' event, every Thursday, where I'll post, tag someone else who has shown kindness, and thus start a #kindnessripple that spreads as they hopefully tag, retweet and pass it on.
I DON'T want this to be a popularity contest, or to be a 'tag as many people as possible' tweet - I'd really like it to be a thoughtful and meaningful thank you to someone, so I'd like it to be only one tag per tweet (if that's possible for some people!). I don't want the fear of leaving someone off, or not tagging someone to affect what should be a sincere recognition of something someone has done to show kindness.
I hope it takes off, and that the #kindnessripple spreads...please get involved, and thank you.
Original blog post:
It is a cold wet morning as I write this, and it’s supposed to be Summer…it can be tricky to be positive on these types of days, and it’s provided an example for me, of why kindness is SO important.
If my mood and attitude can be affected by something as simple and out of my control as the weather, then how does something like our attitude or manner affect those around us (and in particular, as a teacher, I’m thinking about the classroom and school environment).
As a dad (and, if I’m being honest here) as a teacher too, I have used, and heard being used, the statement, ‘That wasn’t kind’ or similar far too many times to count. As I thought about what I’d write here, I reflected on the disparity between that number, and how often I’ve said, ‘This is how to be kind’. There was a big difference…
So this goes back to my previous blog post…. how often do we hold these words up as our ‘Values’, and expect children to accept and understand them without explicit instruction, modelling and examples of how to be/do that thing?
So…kindness. As Roald Dahl said, maybe the number one attribute. And there are so many examples of how we can do this in schools.
Before the Covid pandemic, I shook hands and greeted every child at the door of my classroom. Why? Because it was maybe the latest fad in behaviour management and I was ordered to by my headteacher to start with, in all honesty, but after a few days, because both they and I liked it! The shy child, who never puts their hand up in class speaking (only a few words, maybe, but a start); the boy who never smiles laughing at your rubbish joke; and equally, the normally happy child not making eye contact - a signal that something might be amiss and care is required. All this, from a greeting at the door. Why wouldn’t you?
That 5 minutes set them, and me as their teacher, up for a better day from the start…it showed I cared, and that was reflected back in how they were in class. Paul Dix calls this ‘Putting out the Welcome Mat’ and talks about the ripple effect just this simple start to the day can have.
Aware now, that handshakes may not be risk-assessment friendly, maybe just a hello will have to do, but there will be something happening in my classroom each morning, I guarantee, and I will try my hardest to continue it throughout the day, too. A comment about work, a smile, a shared joke or serious conversation. I’ve found that a few teachers enjoy the critical feedback element of their job a bit too much…yes, you need to point out mistakes and advise, but if all you do is say what’s wrong and that what’s been done isn’t good enough, then what will the ripples of THAT be?
So kindness can start with that greeting at the door, but what then? We can’t have kindness everywhere can we? Well, actually, I’d argue that we can. It will take a bit of thinking, and I hate the contrived nature of some of the ways that things like this are ‘shoe-horned’ in, so not every lesson will have kindness as a theme, but I can show it happening in other ways if it’s not the explicit central theme of the lesson. Here are some examples:
· Stories – possibly the easiest way to share examples of kindness as a message and in practice. Too many to mention individually, and available for all ages.
As English lead, in school recently we’ve been talking about Shirley Hughes’ ‘Dogger’, Oliver Jeffers’ ‘Here we Are’ and other books that we might use on return to school in September that will offer opportunities to talk about feelings. Look for characters that children can relate to (the mean big sister in ‘Dogger’; the gesture of taking a gift to a sick relative in Little Red Riding Hood; in the book we’re reading in my Y6 class at the minute (Crater Lake by Jennifer Killick), the reason for Lance’s bravery is that he’s trying to save his friends -he cares and his sacrifice and risk is kindness for them. It’s everywhere – point it out!);
· In Art – look at examples of artists with messages of kindness in their work – Banksy and his anti-war, through to their behaviour: Picasso’s treatment of a young Henri Rousseau, saving his art from being painted over as an example, never mind the numerous murals, donations etc. many have made;
· Drama – usually based on a story, so simply a more visual way of seeing interactions between characters. For younger children, it could be CBeebies cartoons, for older pupils, Shakespeare if you like! Roleplay a scene from a book the children know and change the behaviour/actions of a character. What would have happened if he hadn’t done that? What would have happened if he had done this instead?
· In Maths…play Countdown. Honestly. Listen to the cries as you hand out a target number of 900+ with a ‘big’ number of 25 to use to get there. “That wasn’t a ‘kind’ multiple to give you, was it? Why not?” Discussion ensues.
· And discussions: always. In all subjects, whenever possible. Let views be heard, challenged, acknowledged and supported. Ask why, what if, and when?
There are plenty of examples in all sorts of subjects, and again, plenty cleverer than I who have already espoused the virtues of kindness, and provided examples of what, when, where and how, but I don’t think it can be said enough. When Dahl says he’ll put kindness before all others (courage, bravery etc.), he’s exactly right – it does come before all others, because to my mind, without kindness you can’t have those other things. I’ve come to think of kindness as the base for all other traits (like the flour in a bread recipe – you add tweaks to affect the final baked produce!):
Kindness + courage = bravery
Kindness + understanding = empathy
Kindness + empathy = encouragement
Kindness + anger = determination
Kindness + encouragement = achievement
So, there you have it… a brief look at why I feel kindness is so important. Let me know what you think…but be kind!?