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Kindness Week at Wellington

23 September 2019
[wellington_wistia]jv1wngi9dp[/wellington_wistia] It has been kindness week at Wellington College International Shanghai.  As you know, we have five Wellington Values: courage, integrity, kindness, respect and responsibility.  Our values are the qualities we wish to instill in our pupils, but they are also statements of intent of the qualities we as a school wish to uphold.  We should show courage in our planning, integrity in our decision making, respect in our relationships, responsibility in our care-giving and kindness in our interactions. As school leaders, we promise our new teachers that we will endeavor to act by our values in our behaviour as employers.  This promise has led me to understand that sometimes the values can conflict.  One such conflict is between kindness and integrity.  Integrity can require leaders to make hard decisions: this pupil is not making enough progress to stay in the top set or that teacher is not good enough to earn a new contract.  To be overly kind in such circumstances can be the easier option, but in order to further the best interests of pupils and the school, the less kind choice shows greater integrity.  Of course, the values should mean that when we do show integrity and make the hard choice, we act with kindness in seeing it through. When I am speaking about our College, I often find myself describing kindness as the most important of the values.  In over 30 years as a teacher, I have come to learn the strength of the concept in creating a great school culture.  Often school rules and regulations are lists of things that are forbidden. Like the Christian ten commandments, school rules too often begin with ‘thou shalt not’.  We are inclined to say: ‘do not talk’, ‘do not run’, ‘do not push’ or ‘do not wear make-up’. I was reminded of that this week as I tried to agree the wording for the signs to go beside our lovely new play equipment at Wellington.  The suppliers suggested a long list of things that should be forbidden, but Mr Willis suggested that just saying ‘play safely and play kindly’ might be a much more effective message. A strength of kindness as a concept is that it is active rather than passive.  It requires us to do something, rather than avoid doing something.  In other words, there is a big gulf of inactivity sitting there between being kind and being unkind.  It is much easier for a child to tell a teacher or a parent that they were not behaving badly, than to tell them that they were acting kindly. ‘Are you kind to the other children on your bus?’ is a tougher question than ‘have you been mean to the other children on the bus?’ Asking children and adults to display kindness whenever possible saves creating a very long list of rules about holding doors open, or queueing for lunch, or taking turns when playing, or speaking appropriately to each other.  It also leads to a lot more smiling and happiness. Florence, year 7:  I made some rocks with messages for anyone that's not had a great day. This one says ‘Dream Big’ for anyone that’s struggling to discover their talent or interests. Susie, year 6:  I think kindness week is a very good idea, it reminds us to be kind. This rock represents that you must believe in yourself, get things done. If you don’t believe in yourself then nobody else will and be kind to yourself too. Christopher, Year 11: Today I’ve been painting a very big rock, ‘Kindness King’. It is a great thing to do, a big kindness rock.   Gerard MacMahon Executive Master