The Importance of Incorporating Kindness in the School Ethos

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As we welcome a new school year, it’s the perfect time to revisit and redefine our approach to kindness within our school community. Imagine if we treated kindness not just as an individual virtue, but as the lifeblood of our educational environment – the nervous system that connects and vitalises every aspect of school life?

Each act of kindness, no matter how small, sends positive impulses throughout our school, fostering an atmosphere of empathy, respect, and mutual support. Just like the nervous system in our bodies, kindness in our school system can help us respond better to challenges, adapt to new situations, and function more harmoniously as a community.

As students, teachers, and parents navigate the excitement and challenges of a new academic year, integrating kindness into our school’s ‘nervous system’ could be the key to creating a healthier, happier, and more productive learning environment. Let’s explore how this perspective can transform our approach to education.


Why Kindness Matters in Schools

Research shows that schools emphasising kindness create safer, more inclusive environments that foster better learning. A study from the University of British Columbia found classrooms implementing kindness programs had fewer instances of bullying and improved overall student satisfaction (source: UBC News).

Kindness, as a core value, is the foundation of a compassionate and empathetic society. It goes beyond being polite; it’s about showing genuine concern and consideration for others.

In schools, kindness should be at the heart of every interaction, fostering an environment where all students feel valued, respected, and cared for. When kindness becomes a guiding principle, it encourages students to help their peers, show appreciation for their teachers, and treat everyone they encounter with respect.

It also teaches them the importance of empathy, understanding, and compassion in their daily lives. Ultimately, promoting kindness as a core value not only enriches the school atmosphere but also shapes students into caring individuals who can positively contribute to their communities and the wider world.

Integrating Kindness in School Policies

There are various ways schools can incorporate kindness into their policies. One approach is to include kindness as a core value in the school’s mission statement, making it a fundamental part of the school’s identity. Schools can also integrate kindness into their curricula, teaching it explicitly through character education programs or implicitly through literature, history, and social studies.

Schools can create systems that recognise and reward kind behavior, such as ‘kindness awards’ or ‘acts of kindness’ boards. This not only encourages students to act kindly but also reinforces the message that kindness is valued.

Impact of Kindness on Student-Teacher Relationships

Kindness plays a significant role in fostering positive student-teacher relationships. When teachers model kindness, students are more likely to respect them and engage in learning. Conversely, students who experience kindness from teachers feel more comfortable asking questions, seeking help, and participating in class.

Research from the University of Cambridge found that students who perceived their teachers as caring had higher levels of engagement and achievement (source: University of Cambridge).

Kindness as a Bullying Deterrent and Anti-discrimination Tool

Promoting kindness can significantly reduce bullying in schools. A culture of kindness makes it less likely for bullying behaviors to be tolerated or go unnoticed. It empowers bystanders to stand up against bullying and supports victims in speaking out.

In addition, kindness is a powerful tool against discrimination. By fostering an ethos of kindness, schools can promote understanding, acceptance, and respect for diversity. This helps create an environment where all students feel valued and included, regardless of their race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.

The Different Types Of Kindness 

Kindness, at its core, is a universal value, but it can manifest in various ways depending on the context and the individuals involved. Here are some different types of kindness:

  1. Acts of Service: This type of kindness involves doing something helpful for someone else, such as helping an elderly neighbor with groceries or volunteering at a local charity.

  2. Compassion: Compassionate kindness involves understanding someone’s emotional state and providing comfort, support, or help in their time of need.

  3. Empathy: Empathetic kindness means putting yourself in another person’s shoes, understanding their feelings, and responding in a caring and helpful manner.

  4. Generosity: Generosity is kindness in giving. It doesn’t always mean material gifts; it could be sharing your time, knowledge, or skills with others.

  5. Courtesy: This involves basic politeness and good manners – holding the door for someone, saying please and thank you, respecting others’ time and space.

  6. Forgiveness: This type of kindness involves letting go of grudges and forgiving others for their mistakes.

  7. Inclusiveness: Kindness can also be shown by including others, making sure everyone feels welcomed and valued, regardless of their differences.

  8. Gratitude: Expressing appreciation and gratitude towards others for their actions, no matter how small, is another form of kindness.

Each type of kindness has its unique impact, but all contribute to building a more positive, empathetic, and understanding community and society.

Implementing It In The School Environment 

In schools, the practice of kindness can be implemented in several ways. For instance, acts of service could include students volunteering to help their peers with schoolwork or participating in community service projects organized by the school. Compassion may be shown by providing emotional support to a classmate who’s going through a challenging time. Teachers can model empathetic kindness by understanding and addressing the unique needs and circumstances of each student.

Generosity could be promoted through initiatives like book or food drives, where students are encouraged to donate items to those in need. Courtesy can be fostered through everyday interactions in the classroom, the playground, or during school events. Forgiveness can be taught and encouraged through conflict resolution programs that promote understanding and reconciliation among students.

Inclusiveness can be a key part of a school’s culture, ensuring every student, regardless of their background, feels welcome and valued. This can be achieved by celebrating diversity, promoting inclusivity in classroom activities, and implementing anti-bullying policies (Source: School Culture Definition & Examples).

Lastly, gratitude can be cultivated in schools by encouraging students to appreciate their teachers, classmates, and the opportunities they have for education. This can be done through activities like writing thank you notes or sharing words of appreciation in class (Source: How to Craft a Value Proposition for Your School (With Examples)).

In these ways, the different types of kindness can be integrated into a school’s values and practices, creating a nurturing and positive learning environment.

Actionable Steps for Schools

Adopting kindness as a core value requires more than just a change in rhetoric; it requires action. Here are some steps schools can take:

  1. Embed Kindness in the Curriculum: Incorporate lessons on kindness into the curriculum, using real-life examples, literature, and role-play scenarios.
  2. Model Kindness: Staff should model kindness in their interactions with students and each other, setting a positive example for students.
  3. Recognize and Reward Kindness: Establish systems to recognize and reward acts of kindness, reinforcing its importance.
  4. Create a Safe, Inclusive Environment: Promote inclusivity and diversity, ensuring every student feels valued and accepted.
  5. Provide Training: Offer training for staff on promoting kindness and addressing issues like bullying and discrimination.

Incorporating kindness into the school ethos isn’t just about creating a pleasant environment; it’s about shaping the future. By teaching kindness, we’re equipping students with the emotional intelligence they need to succeed in life and make the world a better place.

Polyvagal Teen® provide training for teachers and schools to help educators improve communication to find out more explore our educators programme. 

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About the author: Yasmin Shaheen-Zaffar

With a passion for improving the emotional wellbeing of young people, adults and parents, she is  the founder and creator of Polyvagal Teen®, she has developed an innovative approach to helping teens recognise and manage stress and anxiety through becoming “Polyvagal Aware”. In addition, Yasmin is also the founder of World Let’s Stop Shouting Day, which aims to promote peaceful communication and reduce conflict and aggression in our daily interactions. Neurosloth™ and The Hearts Whisper®

She also runs a small private practice providing counselling and neurofeedback  to young people and adults in North Yorkshire.

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