The Boomerang Effect: How Kindness Transforms School Communities.
In the tapestry of our school’s daily life, each thread and interaction we have weaves together. Where every member of the community, from student, teacher, and staff member alike, contributes to the experience we weave together. Here, in the corridors and classrooms, the profound truth of kindness resonates deeply.
I remember well when I was transitioning from full-time school life to working as a freelancer, running my own business, and losing that daily connectivity… I wrote about the things I’d miss most:
- Corridor conversations
- Lunch and playground duty
- Time with my tutor group is just one of these
As teachers, we’re no strangers to the ebbs and flows of emotion in the school community, not just from the pupils, students and communities that we serve but also the camaraderie and collegiality (or lack of from some, which may indicate other things bubbling beneath the surface) that we get from those whom we work with.
Whichever way you look at it, school life and integrating well into your role as a teacher is all about developing relationships. Triumphs, challenges, laughter, and learning may mark these. Yet, amidst the many responsibilities that fill our days, there lies a powerful, unifying force bound by mutual respect and the innate capacity for kindness that resides within each of us.
Yes, in my experience, that tends to be more prominent in educators, but it’s a gift we can pass on to those we serve and does well at improving those all-important relationships.
Kindness, they say, is a boomerang. We can often find it in the bustling hallways of our educational sanctuaries. When we choose to share a smile or extend a sincere ‘How are you?’ to someone we meet – be it a student, a colleague (or, importantly, I’ve found, even ourselves in the mirror) – we’re not just offering a simple gesture, too often responded to with a positive, masking more profound issues. We’re igniting the vital spark of empathy, a recognition of shared humanity that goes beyond the spoken word.
For the student navigating the complexities of adolescence, a smile can be a beacon of hope, a silent affirmation that they are seen, understood, and valued. For the colleague shouldering the silent burdens that life often brings, your genuine inquiry into their wellbeing can be a lifeline, a momentary respite that rekindles the spirit.
Sure, the query isn’t often responded to, but for those that need it, that lifeline can be the spark that, when asked again further down the line, might give them the strength to recognise that sharing something inside might be better off being shared.
Kindness does indeed breed kindness, I’ve found.
I’ll never forget one of my students, let’s call them Dave.
Dave was a student who had quite a difficult time being away from school. I won’t go into the details for obvious reasons, but the repeated daily smile and check-in helped develop a relationship that led to a conversation that Dave disclosed to me. The kindness shared with the often shared smile and check-in helped develop a relationship and a bond of trust around kindness.
Moving forward three years and following support from colleagues in the school, sharing, help and accommodations made, Dave is in Year 11 and like a boomerang, the kindness didn’t end with the recipient.
As I saw Dave interacting with new peers and tutees arriving in Year 7 (we had vertical tutor groups), seeing them come in tutor time, I knew that kindness returned as Dave would go to the freshly faced arrivals and check in with them.
At break time, I’d see Dave with their usual friendship groups, but I’d still see Dave looking out for and checking in with others in my tutor group. They’d ask others to join them and their friends at the lunch table in the big hall. Dave’s kindness radiated from within in a way that instilled in others the same kindness they had received.
Kindness is a boomerang. You throw it out, and you get it back. You had done kind things in the world, and you had been rewarded with kindness in return. – Matt Haig
Conclusion: The Boomerang Effect: How Kindness Transforms School Communities
In offering kindness, we open ourselves to receiving it ourselves and towards others, hopefully creating a cycle of positivity that uplifts everyone it touches.
In the context of our schools, this cycle spreads an environment where compassion is the norm, not the exception. It cultivates a culture where the wellbeing of each individual is part of the daily fabric of life within our schools.
It’s been clear to me throughout my career that for many, schools are their sanctuary, and one such way of making it such, particularly for those that need it the most, but importantly for all, is a smile, that simplest of acts of kindness, that can for many, make all the difference, even when you might be feeling that smiley yourself.
Mark Anderson is a former teacher and middle and senior leader with more than 30 years of experience in education, 20 of which were in schools. He is a founding fellow of the Chartered College of Teaching, the UK Education Blog of the Year award winner, and a best-selling author. He now works with schools and technology companies, supporting them with digital strategy, teaching and learning and impactful approaches to using technology in education. An Independent Thinking Associate, Mark worked part-time as the Head of Education at NetSupport and co-founded Global EdTech and the Global EdTech Awards. His forthcoming book ‘The EdTech Playbook’ is due out soon from John Catt Educational.
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