Anti-Bullying: How can we teach kindness?

Written by: Gemma Hennessey & Julaan Govier | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

What has been the impact of lockdowns, self-isolation and remote learning for our pupils? Julaan Govier and Gemma Hennessey noticed less tolerance, patience and willingness to collaborate. So, they set about teaching their pupils to ‘be kind’...


Today’s world has never been more interconnected and multicultural, providing wonderful opportunities for diverse thinking, collaboration and innovation to help young people flourish.

Teaching children about the value of inclusivity and kindness is therefore one of the most important things we can do in schools, fostering a caring community of learners who will look after one another and work together as a team.

Kindness involves the active recognition that other people's feelings are important, and it requires the ability to consider the perspective of others, which is an important developmental skill in learning and life.

At LEO Academy Trust in south London, we believe kindness, empathy and inclusion should underpin the whole learning experience, and we promote this through lessons, assemblies and our overall daily conduct.

It is important that children understand the importance of treating others how they would like to be treated. By doing so at a young age, they can become the best form of themselves and allow their peers to thrive too.


Putting kindness at the heart of learning

Upon returning to school after a long period of home learning last year due to Covid-19, we realised that we needed to place an even greater emphasis on the active teaching and learning of kindness and inclusivity.

As children had spent increased time working independently at home, we noticed that many pupils had less tolerance, patience and willingness to work more collaboratively with their peers.

For some, the whole experience of the pandemic has had a profound impact on their learning, self-esteem and general mindset around mixing with friends again.

As a result, we introduced a “recovery curriculum” which puts kindness and inclusivity at the heart of our teaching and learning approach. Building on our trust’s wider pupil wellbeing strategy, a key element of the recovery curriculum has involved the daily teaching of PSHE lessons.

We follow the Jigsaw scheme for our PSHE teaching, which involves choosing a key theme to focus the teaching and learning each half-term. This half-term, for example, our theme is “Celebrating differences”. Each lesson starts with a game to bring the children together and engage them with the learning objective, with reflection time and activities based around each theme.

The children really enjoy these aspects of the curriculum as they offer time for class discussions and opportunities to share their thoughts and empathise with one another in a safe environment.

Of course, some pupils are reluctant to open up and share their feelings or concerns. Therefore, it is our responsibility as teachers to encourage them to speak with a trusted adult so that they can voice their worries and resolve any issues.

Having a designated “Safe to Speak” space in your school where pupils can go, as well as worry boxes, can be a great help for children who are struggling.

We also introduced Zones of Regulations, which trains the children in various ways and methods of regulating their own emotions and feelings. Ultimately, these classroom strategies encourage children to share their feelings, work as a team and support each other and the wider community too, which are key life skills to build at an early age.


Building empathy into day-to-day life

Helping young people to develop a strong sense of empathy is beneficial for so many reasons, from encouraging tolerance and acceptance of others, to promoting positive mental health and social harmony, thereby reducing the likelihood of bullying.

There are many small ways that schools can promote this. For example, classrooms can each have a Kindness Jar where pupils share uplifting messages about each other and encourage pupils to carry out a Random Act of Kindness each day.

During Anti-Bullying Week last month – the theme of which was One Kind Word – we asked all class members to write positive messages for their peers. It was wonderful to see the looks on the children’s faces when they saw what others had written about them – a little, kind word certainly goes a long way.

Engaging with awareness events and initiatives such as Children in Need and the Be Internet Legends programme by Google is a great way to get pupils thinking about the experiences of others and reflecting on their behaviour in schools and online, helping them to develop positive interpersonal skills and habits.


Championing the pupil voice

When it comes to teaching children about kindness and tolerance, it is crucial that pupils are included and listened to in the conversation. This will ensure each child feels worthy, safe and valued.

At Cheam Common Junior Academy we are part of UNICEF UK’s the Right Respecting School Scheme, which promotes the teaching and learning of children’s rights. As part of this, at the beginning of the year, each class forms a Class Charter which sets out the agreed guidelines for how children and teachers should treat one another.

We start by looking at the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of the Child and discussing which rights are most important to pupils in the classroom, asking them to think about their learning, inclusion and treatment of others. Together, the children adapt these rights to suit their unique class, which gives them a sense of ownership and a feeling of belonging.

It also provides them with an understanding of what rights they should expect for the new school year, as well as a sense of duty and responsibility to uphold these rights. These are then displayed and signed by everyone in the room, including the adults, and are referred to frequently.

We also have many pupil voice groups, such as Junior PTFA, Money Ambassadors, Eco Warrior and PSHE Ambassadors. These are all voted for by the children to give them autonomy and to help develop their voice. This further helps them to build a sense of security and stronger relationships with other children and adults alike, creating a positive and happy school environment.


Conclusion

In schools, it is crucial that we promote kindness and inclusivity among the next generation to ensure they grow up learning how to treat others with courtesy, respecting people’s different upbringings, cultures, religions, likes, dislikes and beliefs.

Building an understanding in children of what others are feeling, how their own actions can impact on others, and why someone might be experiencing feelings at a particular time is a valuable life-skill – one that we must integrate in the classroom to help children thrive in later life.

  • Julaan Govier is the PSHE lead Cheam Common Junior Academy in Surrey and Gemma Hennessey is year leader at Cheam Park Farm Primary Academy in the London borough of Sutton, and both part of LEO Academy Trust.


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