How can we make school a kinder place?
On World Kindness Day 2020, we caught up with Emily Heath, founder of the Teach First-supported Pastoral Network, and Adam Seldon, Head of Character at Heartlands High School.
Along with home life, a student's daily experience at school is one of the most formative influences on their individual identity and character.
We believe that, rather than leaving such formation to chance, our school - through its Character Education Programme - should be intentional about the kind of values and virtues we want to nurture in our students. This means they leave school with not only academic progress, but personal qualities that can serve them throughout their lives.
By doing so, it helps create a culture where students are kinder to each other. They say thank you to staff more often. Expressing or feeling gratitude, or doing acts of kindness, supports the mental wellbeing of both the giver and recipient. To help boost this culture, we continue to actively develop our virtues of ‘performance’ and ‘morality’, emphasise tutor time, host assemblies and more generally, encourage the everyday language staff use with students.
A student's daily experience at school is one of the most formative influences on their individual identity and character.
We champion themed weeks at our school. During Kindness Week, students write what they admire about classmates on post-it notes, which they then stick around school. They show kindness to the local community by donating to a foodbank on their way into school. During Gratitude Week, they write thank you cards to teachers that have made an impact on them, or speak in assembly about what they're grateful for.
We both recall the moment one Year 10 boy - who had a pretty ambiguous reputation - spoke with such dignified humility and poise about how he was grateful to his parents for moving from a dangerous country to the UK, so he could get a good education.
Further to these, we also have a focus on kindness during this year’s Anti-Bullying Week (16-22 November). Students in all year group bubbles will be giving out ‘Stand Up to Bullying’ badges, so that every child in school can show outward support for our anti-bullying message. We have student anti-bullying ambassadors, who have created a video assembly to be played to all year groups – it will show them how to be an ‘upstander’ and support those targeted by bullying. We are also hosting a whole school anti-bullying poster competition.
[Students] show kindness to the local community by donating to a foodbank on their way into school.
Additionally, we’re asking staff to display posters on their door, inspired by the anti-bullying alliance, pledging to do something to help prevent bullying behaviour. In non-COVID times, we normally mark this week with an ‘acts of kindness’ board in our library, where students can select a random act of kindness with the aim of making someone’s day.
Though we champion these themed weeks, we believe kindness should be practiced throughout the whole year – not just a specific moment in time. Kindness and gratitude have such a powerful impact on a school’s culture. They facilitate members of the community - whether students, teachers or support staff - to feel valued, which in turn cements togetherness and commitment to the school, and the people within it.
We believe kindness should be practiced throughout the whole year – not just a specific moment in time.
If you’re inspired by some of these ideas and would like to share best practice with other pastoral leaders, then the Pastoral Network would love to hear from you. Follow them on Twitter @Pastoral_N or send an email to email@example.com.