As schools evolve, educators continue looking at ways to ensure learners have memorable educational experiences. The act of practicing kindness figures prominently in these considerations, and with good reason. More and more, modern education realizes our students’ emotional health is just as important as their capacity to learn. After all, learners may not remember all of what their teachers say, but they will always remember how they made them feel.
Today you’ll find many schools whose values are based on the principles of kindness, mindfulness, and acceptance. Some examples are GEMS DAA, Melrose High School, and Parap Primary School to name just a few. These are schools we here at the GDCF have had the pleasure of working with directly. Within their walls, we’ve witnessed firsthand how practicing kindness enhances the educational process for everyone.
Kindness Changes Everything
Because practicing kindness has a solid role in school culture, the skills educators need coming into the field have also changed. It’s no longer sufficient that modern teachers be simply content specialists. Today, they need to be counsellors, caregivers, and emergency responders. They also require knowledge in educational psychology, interpersonal communications, and classroom management.
In this article from Mindshift, Katrina Schwartz writes:
“Some educators would like to believe that their job is to be content specialists, but increasingly they are realizing that without the social and emotional skills to navigate setbacks and difficult relationships kids won’t learn much.”
The act of being kind is also one of our best strategies for eliminating bullying in schools. Lisa Currie from Edutopia cites a connection between practicing kindness and the reduction of bullying:
“Many traditional anti-bullying programs focus on the negative actions that cause anxiety in children. When students are instead taught how to change their thoughts and actions by learning about kindness and compassion, it fosters the positive behaviour that’s expected and naturally rewarded with friendship.”
What about the idea of teaching kindness as part of a regular program of learning? As mindfulness makes its way into education, such a thing becomes more and more of a possibility. In this Greater Good article, Laura Pinger and Lisa Flook encourage practicing kindness through curriculum:
“Kindness bridges those gaps and helps build a sense of connection among the students, the teachers, and even the parents. Learning to strengthen their attention and regulate their emotions are foundational skills that could benefit kids in school and throughout their whole lives.”
All these examples point to a fundamental truth about practicing kindness in schools: it works. It’s easy to place a focus on the technical aspects of delivering the content and passing exams, and nothing more. History shows this has always been what both teachers and students are responsible for. However, as we move toward a kinder school environment, the improvements in student performance and attitude can’t be ignored. By focusing on the well-being and safety of our learners, we get the results we want while instilling profound lifelong values.
How Practicing Kindness Helps Students Learn
In or out of school, we should all be practicing kindness. That said, the benefits it can have to how we learn are clearly worth considering. It takes little effort to be kind as a habit, and the evidence of how it enhances learning is all around us. This is great news for teachers and students alike.
It improves concentration: Seratonin, a neurotransmitter found in the brain, is widely regarded as a mood balancer. Practicing kindness can have an extremely positive effect on serotonin levels. Since this is an important chemical for improving cognitive ability, the need for kindness in schools becomes clear.
It alleviates stress: This goes back to the effects of serotonin, the feel-good chemical in our brains. When we are practicing kindness, we are experiencing a twofold benefit. Essentially, levels of stress tend to noticeably decrease in both the giver and the receiver of an act of kindness. As an added bonus, anyone who merely witnesses such an act can also experience stress reduction. Less stress means better focus, creative potential, and cognitive function, translating to better learning.
It encourages collaboration: As we become kinder, two things happen in terms of relationships. First, our self-esteem improves, making us more willing to interact with others creatively. Second, we develop more empathy and peer acceptance qualities, which help us form more meaningful connections with others. All this contributes to healthy and productive collaboration in any learning environment.
When it comes to better learning, you can’t beat practicing kindness. It is our hope that this becomes the norm in schools all over the world. The cultures that practice kindness as a habit are those we ourselves can learn from. As we become ambassadors for kindness in our own schools, we carry the ideals forward as our students lead the way.