Putting Kindness First - By Tom Boland
Over the last few weeks I have been fortunate to experience the privilege of traveling through Europe, visiting many places in Portugal and Spain where language and other aspects of culture quickly rendered me hopelessly mute. Despite such barriers, I have been welcomed and supported by extraordinarily, ordinary people, some of whom have been fellow travellers, but most notably by others who call my travel destinations their home. Common to each of these experiences, despite language barriers and the occasional state of complete confusion, has been the universal catalyst of genuine relationship-building - the smile. I have felt the genuine support and the boost in confidence that comes from a warm, authentic smile; the instant and unconditional “How may I help you?”; the unspoken gesture understood even in the absence of the spoken word.
Consider the incredible impact of such a small but genuine gesture from the perspective of educator and student. We know that many students occasionally feel lost or uncertain; lack confidence or understanding; and at times feel anxious, unsafe and even afraid. Consider the warmth and the security that comes from an adult’s smile, a simple gesture of kindness, versus the stress that is often born out of misunderstood rules of conduct, or academic expectations that a child cannot attain. Very often what seems like “unwillingness” from a child - to behave or to achieve - might actually be “inability”. Support begins with kindness and understanding, which usually begins with a smile.
The kindness I experienced over the last few weeks - from adults and children alike - made my travels through Europe an incredible experience. Likewise, the kindness that children experience at school - from teachers and classmates alike - can make their travels through school a positive learning experience. Kindness is the foundation of relationship, and relationship is the foundation of successful learning and positive development. Putting kindness first doesn’t make academic achievement less important, it simply creates more opportunities for more students to be more successful more regularly.
Smile at a student today. You’ll likely see your kindness reflected in their eyes.