A simple act of kindness
I travelled home to England recently and found myself on a ferry to an Island just off the south coast of the country. The group appeared to be middle school-aged and was obviously on a school fieldtrip for a few days. Most students shuffled to the boat carrying backpacks and bags larger than their small bodies with a tangible buzz of excitement. The students scattered to all parts of the seating area and I watched with amusement as the two teachers frantically tried to maintain some sort of order to the group. These types of experience are often the very best of what students remember about school.
When we docked I was one of the first off the boat and through the terminal. I enjoyed the beautiful autumn weather sitting on a small wall outside the terminal as I waited the 30 minutes for my car. Sure enough after a few minutes a long single-file line of students emerged from the terminal led by the very young looking male teacher with his equally young female colleague bringing up the rear. The students were still chatting excitedly and the teachers seemed to be calm and relaxed. They meandered through the parking lot and into the distance until they were out of sight. I remember thinking that there was an obvious and impressive level of respect among the group.
More than 15 minutes later, I was already lost in my music and still enjoying the warmth of the sun on my face when in the distance I observed two individuals walking towards the terminal. Although they were only silhouettes I could make out the tell-tale slumped shoulders of a guilty student and his teacher. Sure enough moments later a forlorn looking young man appeared, head-down with his teacher beside him – clearly on the way back to the terminal to attempt to retrieve a forgotten item.
But the teacher, rather than chastising or showing frustration for having to walk all the way back, was encouraging him that all would be well. Showing a quiet kindness and caring that lies at the heart of good teaching. “Don’t worry, I forget things all the time!” she said, “Just last week I drove all the way to school before I realized that I had left my entire bag with my lunch, school keys and all my grading on the kitchen table! I can help you develop a system…” she continued as they entered the building
Minutes later the two emerged again, this time with an additional oversized backpack firmly on the back of the now smiling child. The teacher, still smiling, still reassuring, still kind – her hand now ruffling her student’s hair. “Told you it would be ok!” He grinned, his shoulders returned to their usual stature and the excitement back in his step. As they walked back into the distance I could see him chatting away completely engaged with his teacher.
This simple act of kindness was never witnessed by the boy’s parents. They will never understand the level of professional kindness shown to their son by such a young professional. The teacher will never receive recognition for it, and yet this simple kind-heartedness can have such a powerful impact on children and how they experience school. I was left wondering how many times my own children had benefited from a teachers grace (when I, as a parent, probably would not have been so patient!), and the thousands of times that I have witnessed teachers exhibit tenderness and understanding with students when it would have been far easier to be frustrated.
These are the magic moments that I am blessed to have experienced throughout my career. I hear so much about teachers giving too much homework, not grading fairly, or losing their patience with students, and I wish that I had a few recordings of the many simple moments, just like this one, where a nurturing and caring teacher brightens a child’s day.
I bet that fieldtrip was a great one!