No matter where you are or what you do, kindness can make a difference. In some circumstances, particularly high pressured ones, the difference is even more powerful. I currently work in an SEMH provision with young people from some very challenging backgrounds and who may be in some very difficult circumstances. No matter where I have worked, my unperpinning motivation has been to make a difference. Never has this been more important than in the field of education. I am one of the lucky few. I love my job. I don’t mind when the holidays end (although of course I wouldn’t object if they were a touch longer) and although I don’t rejoice when the alarm goes off at 04:45, I do still love my job. I am human, I have good days and I have bad days, I am only human however my underpinning aim remains the same — to make a difference. Specifically to make a difference to all of those who I come into contact with. The question is, how can you go about doing this?
There are some practical things I try and do on a daily and a weely basis and there has also been a change in my mindset which underpins the way I act, react and behave. The latter has been hard work to make my default way of being but it is very much possible. I’m going to talk, briefly, about both the practical things that I try and do and the change to my mindset that I have made.
In practical terms it is important to recognise all people -i.e. staff and pupils alike, support staff as well as teaching staff. The smallest of actions can have the greatest of effects. Recognise your TA’s, the clerical staff and the cleaners. Know everyone’s name. Smile when you greet them and be sure to say thanks for their help. Write a card. A note. Leave them a bar of chocolate. Cause them to smile; create a serotonin moment for them, let them know they are noticed and that they are important. Give credit where credit is due rather than absorbing the glory that belongs, even in part, to others. For pupils, the system is just the same but take real care to magnify the effect that any potential action has. If you write a letter of praise, send it to the pupil and give them a copy for themselves and another for their parents. If you go into a meeting with parents, take a photo, a piece of work, something that lets them see you recognise their childs potential, not just their misdemeanours. As you walk through your a note on the desk of those kids that graft, every lesson without fail. Let them know that they are recognised and their efforts are noticed. The act of kindness that you notice from one pupil to another, give it recognition be that quiet or public. Create that warm feeling that a smile and a release of serotonin offers. Occasionally, when marking, don’t give an “even better if”, just recognise the monumental effort that has gone into the work and write “this is awesome, I am so proud of you”. The kid that has forgotten their water bottle but isn’t creating a scene — give them a drink. The smallest of actions can have the greatest of meaning and importance.
We are often told that pupils mirror us. If we are grumpy and unreasonable, they may well default to being the same. If we are balanced and reasonable, likewise they may do the same. Equally it is important that we recognise the impact of our way of being has on our colleagues. We can’t choose what happens to us but we can chose how we react to everyday events. It I stomp into the staff room in a foul mood I bring others down. Or I can choose not to be that person. I can choose to lift people up. To smile. To offer support. To look at things from another perspective. I can choose to accept that the bad behaviour in my class today wasn’t directed at me but that a myriad of other factors had influenced the class in the lead up to my lesson. I can take a deep breath, smile and make a brew — probably at the end of the day because my coffee always seems to end up cold if I try and have one during the school day. Andy Cope is a really interesting bloke. Dr Happy is his nickname. I love that he has done things differently and completed a PhD looking at what makes people happy as opposed to what can go wrong in our brain. In a nutshell, it comes down to attitude. He calls the people I am talking about ‘2%ers’ and as the name suggests there are relatively few of them although there is always room to flip the way you behave and join them. It’d be cool if over time they became the 3%ers and then the 4%ers. At the other end of the scale you have the type of person who saps your will to live. The mood hoover. Now I know that I have a choice over which one of them I am. I know that if not a 2%er, then I am damned close. I haven’t always been that way. It is an active choice. It’s a choice I work hard at because not only do I experience the ups and downs, joys and pressures, that teaching brings I do so whilst suffering from depression. If I can do it, so can you.
The most important part of my week is the end of the school day on a Friday. I always, without fail, fire off an email before I go. I thank someone for their help. I let a parent know about the amazing act of kindness their child carried out this week. I notice someone who is down or struggling and pick them up. The impact is twofold. I make someone else’s day and I leave feeling good about my own. I love my job.