May 21

During this time, we must remember the importance of kindness

I have found it increasingly difficult to keep track of time during lockdown. As a lifelong institutionalised teacher/student, I tend to bookmark my life with the events and routines that tend to mark school life: assemblies; concerts; half term breaks.

Whilst the Blackheath High School teachers have done an amazing job of keeping lots of these kinds of traditions and activities going virtually, it hasn’t quite done the job for me in terms of marking the passing weeks. This is partly because since 20 March, life has been for school leaders (and school staff in general), quite frankly, bonkers. A blur of government directives and obfuscation, fast-track IT upskilling, home-working, zooming and planning for a totally new style of education has kept us incredibly busy and blurred those work/life boundaries. No chance to develop new hobbies, discover hidden creative talents or achieve life fitness goals for me during this lockdown!

I did however, manage to notice it was Mental Health Awareness Week this week, with a particular focus on kindness. This chimed particularly with the one thing non-school related that I have managed to achieve this month, which is reading Matthew Syed’s latest book: Rebel Ideas. It is a great book, if you haven’t had the chance to read, or listen, to it yet. Lots of challenging ideas about the power of divergent thinking and the unique perspectives an ‘outsider’ can bring to team decision-making. So in this somewhat challenging time, I wondered what perspective or enlightenment Matthew Syed might bring for me to draw inspiration from. He has written this article for the BBC on “The good that can come out of an upside-down world”. He has some interesting ideas on education (more on that another day), but for the purposes of this blog, it was his thoughts on kindness that struck home. As he puts it:

I wonder if kindness can become a more sustainable part of our societies, particularly when people realise that altruism and self-interest are not so very afar apart.

Not only is the flourishing of individual and collective acts of kindness making our society a warmer, more pleasant place to be, but there is lots of persuasive evidence that increasing the kindness in our interactions with others actually leads to flourishing and success in a way that selfish individualism cannot.

I have seen countless acts of kindness from our students; from Emma’s BHS for the NHS project to kind message of thanks to teachers and volunteering locally. It makes me feel very optimistic for the future and determined to preserve and develop the good, coming out of this upside-down world.


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