Kindness: it's your choice | Education Support
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Kindness in schools - it's your choice

Kindness: it's your choice

In Mental Health Awareness Week, headteacher Darren Morgan writes about the importance of kindness to oneself and others particularly during this difficult time. 

Earlier this week I was asked by a BBC journalist what piece of advice I would give Y6 teachers.  I said that they should treat themselves well during these difficult times; others, including their families and pupils will benefit from this choice, but primarily, they will – a good enough reason for me.

In Mental Health Awareness Week, I wanted to write about the importance of kindness, particularly now. There’s a danger that while we put on our superhero capes as teachers we also put our mental wellbeing on the back-burner. Without acknowledging and looking after our own mental health, stress, anxiety and exhaustion will come back bigger, darker and stronger than ever after this unchartered period in all our lives.

Self-kindness

Last week, for me, was unimaginably difficult.  My working pattern included 3am and 5am starts, little down-time, moving goal posts, shifting expectations and sheer craziness.  Each day, I worked hard to plan and tackle the problems posed by the day before. Government announcements and updates meant the mountain to climb felt insurmountable.

We have to look after ourselves. Not in a selfish manner, and not at the expense of others, but in order to help others.

If the mountain ahead is too daunting, don’t climb it alone. Talk to family, friends or colleagues. Education Support offer support for us all.

Choose to give yourself time to look after you. Time to reflect and space to relax. Go for that daily walk, you will be stronger and better for it.  However, you have to plan for this space or it is unlikely to happen; your day will become too full. Thoughts of it will be pushed away, replaced by the equally well intentioned promise to dedicate time to your wellbeing the next day. Often, that day doesn’t arrive as each day presents the same overwhelming and time-consuming issues.

Find room for mindfulness. This looks different for all of us; for some it will be yoga and meditation, for others a walk or extreme physical exertion.

Kindness to others

Looking after others is also edifying;

Sacrifice

We can all help others. It doesn’t cost us to do so.  It is so much harder to help others when it costs time.  How hard it is to help someone else when you are inundated!  However, it’s vital.  I say to the children how important it is to help others at all times.

Last year I had the sheer pleasure of visiting a wonderful school in Africa. It didn’t have much in terms of teaching materials.  It became apparent to me how routine it was for all of the children to share their stumps of pencils with the child next to them.  In spite of this, maybe because of this, these children are incredibly happy, in fact, inspirationally so.

We can learn from children.  Sacrifice time to help your colleagues, not because of potential intrinsic or extrinsic ‘payback’ but simply because it will help them.  Here I would like to recommend, what is in my opinion, an excellent film called ‘Pay it Forward’ which is based on this principle.  The narrative details the impact on others that acts of kindness have. 

Gratitude

As a walker in these times  I have begun to echo my driving habits.  When I pull over to let a traveller pass by keeping to the social distancing rules I feel frustrated when they don’t have the courtesy to show appreciation for my thoughtful act of incredible chivalry.

I believe it is an act of kindness to show appreciation to those who help us in any way, shape or form. 

Whilst ‘headteacher bashing’ appears to have become quite a popular sport on Twitter, I feel school leaders are being de-humanised and treated poorly.  I believe that most are trying their very hardest for their pupils and staff.  I also believe that most go out of their way to support their staff; often at expense to themselves and their families as do most teachers. 

What you may perceive as a simple act of appreciation can have a profound impact on that individual. It very much does for me.

Integrity

In summary it strikes me that to treat oneself well, show gratitude and demonstrate sacrifice can all be placed under the banner of integrity. In school I talk to the children of the importance of making the correct choice even when difficult to do so, or, when it is easy to make the wrong choice. This is clearly a mantra that applies to us all when considering kindness.

In my opinion, the best, most empathetic and life-changing leaders show kindness through demonstrating honesty, transparency and consistency at all times.

During Mental Health Awareness Week, why not give it a bash? See how it feel to treat yourself and others with kindness.

Darren Morgan is a proud headteacher of a wonderful school and tweets @Moggy14

How we can help 

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