This week, Ms Teale (Deputy Head Pastoral) guest writes on the Headmistress blog about the culture of kindness at BGS and how this helps students develop behaviours that add life-long value.
You might just as well ask what are schools for? Schools enable young people to acquire the knowledge that for most of them cannot be acquired at home or in the community. Learning in school serves us in the future and allows us later to go further. At the heart of the educational process is the continual broadening and deepening of knowledge. Minds are contagious and one of the most powerful influences that teachers can have on younger minds relies on teachers modelling learning characteristics and behavioural norms in the classroom. This modelling helps to create an environment for learning.
It is essential that we have safe, calm and dignified classrooms that facilitate good learning and teaching. Teachers build the norms they want to see in the classroom and a common cultural norm at Bedford Girls’ School involves establishing a culture of kindness. When we establish norms, it is important that we are clear about what we mean. In early years environments children are taught about kind hands, kind eyes and kind mouths. Early years practitioners unpack and explain behaviours, they demonstrate the behaviour and get the child to practice it.
Young people will enter into conflict with each other, this is normal and expected and they might need an adult to help them resolve the conflict. When something goes wrong, we adopt a restorative approach at BGS. We ask the student to reflect on what happened, what they were thinking at the time, who was affected and what needs to be done to make things right. Restorative approaches enable those who have been harmed to convey the impact of the harm to those responsible, and for those responsible to acknowledge this impact and take steps to put it right. Restorative approaches do not negate the need for consequences for unacceptable behaviour, but research shows that it can alleviate problems such as bullying, classroom disruption, truancy and poor attendance, antisocial behaviour, and disputes between pupils.
Young people need to see adults behaving compassionately. Teachers greet students as they enter the classroom, we speak to our students warmly, we give them encouraging words and we take notice when they demonstrate their own acts of kindness. A culture of kindness helps us all to fulfill another very important purpose of schools apart from knowledge and skill acquisition; that of building understanding, respect and community.