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Humanity and Kindness

Chris Sweeney: Principal Trainer

This week’s blog post is written by Chris Sweeney, Principal Trainer:

Every so often a thread or post on Twitter really resonates and creates a stir. Recently there was a tweet from Jaz Ampaw-Farr that hit the mark; in this she urged schools to check in with learners before their Summer Holiday and reassure them that school will be there in six weeks’ time. This led me to watch a video of one of her talks where she reminds us that we need to be Humans first and Teachers second. For me this one quote really resonated and got me thinking about kindness.

This is a word that I think had been hijacked over time and is often misconstrued. It is sometimes equated with being weak, or wishy washy. I think we need to reclaim this word for what it truly means and its importance to behaviour management in schools.

In my early career alongside the ever present helpful standby advice to new teachers of “Don’t smile til Christmas”, I was also warned a number of times not to be too kind, as if this was some kind of weakness. To me this demonstrates a lack of understanding about kindness.

  • Kindness does not mean giving students what they want, it means giving them what they need.
  • Kindness means having safe, secure boundaries and holding students accountable to these.
  • Kindness can be strict.
  • Kindness means being there, come what may.
  • Kindness is part of being assertive.

Interestingly on a course earlier this year when we were discussing what assertiveness is the adults on the course were shying away from the word. The responses they were coming up with described assertiveness negatively; in fact what they were describing was aggression. True assertiveness, to me, has kindness at the heart of it. Too often we get caught up in debates around extremes from “fluffy” to “zero tolerance”. There is a middle road, there is true assertiveness. Kindness is not an easy option, it is not the easy way out. It means holding people, including ourselves, to account.

High expectations, Consistency, Certainty and Dignity are all cornerstones when it comes to Behaviour Management. But for me the key is delivery, how we deliver those day in day out. Going back to the words of Jaz Ampaw-Farr it is essential that we deliver these remembering we are a human first. If we all held kindness at the heart of what we do then we won’t go far wrong.

To all the adults and children I have worked with this year in Schools and Colleges up and down the UK, along with everyone else,  I hope you enjoy a well earned Summer Break.

Be kind to yourself first and foremost. If you can do this, you are more likely to be able to do this with others.

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