I watched this Tedtalk back in May and it sent tingles down my spine. A colleague just shared it with me today and I nearly didn’t watch it because knew I had seen it before. However, with only a few minutes left of my “non-contact” time that had been eroded by dealing with unnecessary emails and admin tasks, I decided to click play. I am so glad I did, my spine is still tingling as I type. Rita Pierson is an inspirational, passionate speaker but she cuts to the core of what it is to be an effective teacher. Which teachers do you remember from your schooldays? I know that I remember the grumpy ones or the ones that were mean, and we all have anecdotes about the teachers that we played tricks on. But they are not the teachers whose subjects I ended up studying further, they didn’t inspire me to become a teacher, they didn’t encourage a sense of self-esteem or achievement. The teachers that did that were the ones that cared, the ones that showed an interest in who I was and what I could do, who encouraged me and explained when I didn’t understand their subject, the ones who were kind but also didn’t take any nonsense.
I started to wonder whether being good at a subject is related to how we perceive our teachers . Do we feel inspired by teachers who teach the subjects we like or do we end up liking the subject because of the teacher? And does liking a subject mean that you get better at it even if you don’t have a natural talent for it?
In assembly today, the Principal talked about kindness and read out an edited version of George Saunders address to Syracuse University students. I like this ” If we’re going to become kinder, that process has to include taking ourselves seriously – as doers, as accomplishers, as dreamers. We have to do that, to be our best selves.” However, we also have to be careful not to get wrapped up in accomplishing being the end-game as the journey is just as important, and if we rush too fast to the goal we might just forget to be kind on the way. Saunders also talks about how being kind gets easier as we get older because we become less selfish, less wrapped up in ourselves and who we are and more concerned about others. The goal shifts from looking out for yourself to looking out for others .
Reflecting on my time in schools, I can relate to that. I don’t think I was ever really ambitious but I have always enjoyed my work and constantly seek to improve what I do. I also know that as a young teacher I was probably more focussed on me than on the students. Having my own children definitely changed my whole outlook on life and watching how they have grown and how they learn has informed how I work with the students in my care.
It is humbling and quite frightening to think of the effect I might have had on a couple of generations of children over my nearly 30 year career as an educator. I hope that on balance I was more kind than not! What about you?
P.S. Being kind is as good for you as it is for the people you are kind to.