The act of kindness should never be underestimated. The holy month of Ramadan reminds us of this and gives us time to reflect and appreciate life.
However while we all, when nudged, recognise the need to be kind, in an age where realism, global competition and the school of hard knocks are more commonly referred to for guidance, where is the space and time to be kind?
At Brighton College Dubai, opening in September 2018, we incorporate kindness as one of our five central tenets. We build it into what we do, and into the thinking of our students. More on that below.
Kindness, of course, in an educational sense has been confused by some with ‘softness’ or a lack of discipline. I will let the reader judge how kindness might be considered in the following teacher/pupil exchange:
PUPIL: “Would you punish me for something I didn’t do?”
TEACHER: “Of course not.”
PUPIL: “Good, because I haven`t done my homework.”
Rather than an absence of direction, instruction and correction, kindness in my experience is multi-faceted and on occasion, hard to experience.
The ability to provide a structure for school communities to understand and feel belonging in, is a kindness that can guide and influence whilst still valuing room for individuality.
Traditional school structures with kindness as part of their educational philosophy do not believe in stereotypes of learners nor outcomes for their pupils. We ask our students to exhibit random acts of kindness on a daily basis.
These acts should be done without expectation of reciprocal benefit or acknowledgement.
‘Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see’. Mark Twain.
These words, though important to consider, are but words to the young unless exemplified by action.
Routines of action from our pupils and staff, give meaning to the worth of words. Community activity, such as the annual MADD day at Brighton College (Make a Difference Day), stops the formal curriculum so that every staff and pupil member of the College give their effort and action to a local community need project.
Busy people often find it hard to find time in their lives and yet they often have the skills, drive and ambition that can benefit many beyond themselves.
To learn that lesson in school gives an educational benefit far beyond the immediate.
Individuals as they progress through life have learnt through kindness to give back to others their skill and talents, and from this, influence others across the world.
The prolific writer on the topic of kindness Dr David Hamilton in his latest work The Five Side Effects of Kindness, claims that kindness will: make us happier; is good for the heart; slows ageing; improves relationships; and is contagious.
I believe that there may be other factors beyond kindness that can influence such outcomes in life, but few will doubt that there are many personal and societal rewards for the expression and experience of kindness in school, and of course in life in general.
I will perhaps leave my final reflection on the rewards of kindness to the words of John Ruskin, ‘A little thought and a little kindness are often worth more than a great deal of money’.
Now that must be a valuable lesson for young and old alike!
This article was written by Marco Longmore, Head Master, Brighton College Dubai, which is set to open this September.