Kindness

During my morning arrival to campus earlier this week, I noticed the presence of a woman standing in front of the school carefully scrutinizing everyone entering EAB. Since I did not recognize the woman and with an obvious concern for security, I approached her and inquired about her presence at the school’s entrance. The woman’s response was not what I expected to hear. Her name was Edith and before sharing her response to my question, we need to first rewind to the start of this school year.

It was a typical beautiful and sunny August morning in Brasilia when two EAB teachers were crossing the street making their way to school to prepare for classes and the day ahead. The peacefulness of the morning was abruptly shattered when they witnessed a gruesome pedestrian accident that left a lone woman seriously injured and in desperate need of immediate medical attention. The two EAB teachers dropped everything and rushed to the aid of the injured woman doing everything possible to comfort and assist her through what could only be described as a traumatic experience for all involved. Our teachers continued to provide support until professional assistance arrived and rushed her to a hospital. Since that fateful moment, we have not received any news about the woman’s status. That is, until this week.Shadow-Holding-Hands1

The woman who had the life-threating accident back in August was the same woman who was standing in front of EAB early one morning this week. When I spoke with Edith, she explained that it took several months of rehabilitation and healing before she could walk again. Now that Edith had recovered from her accident, she had come to EAB in the early morning to personally express her profound gratitude with the two teachers who helped her at the time of the accident. Since Edith did not know the teachers’ names, she was standing in front of school endeavoring to identify the teachers who demonstrated such high degrees of compassion and kindness.

There are many important reminders and lessons to highlight from this inspiring event, including the connection to several of EAB’s guiding principles. On that fateful day in August, Edith and EAB’s teachers exemplified our school’s mission to “cultivate responsible and contributing citizens”, modeled the core values of “caring” and “responsibility”, and embodied the ideal of our school’s motto to “cultivate citizenship.” Perhaps the one summative word to best describe the actions of both EAB’s teachers and Edith’s effort to express her gratitude is “kindness.”

Given the prominence of kindness in our society, it is important to reflect on the role that the parent-school partnership plays with respect to developing kindness in students. While there is much debate about the teaching of kindness, I am a firm believer that the characteristics associated with kindness can be taught through our own modeling in conjunction with deliberate instructional practices. The BBC recently published an article titled, “Making Time: Can We Teach Kindness?”, which overviews several experiments that demonstrate how external factors and influences, such as modeling, affects a person’s degree of kindness. This research clearly supports the belief that kindness can be developed in youth and, given the paramount importance of our collective work towards “cultivating responsible and contributing citizens”, the school-parent partnership to both model and instruct has never been more essential.

An apparently simple act by two EAB teachers has left an indelible impression on Edith that will last a lifetime. Through our own modeling and instruction, we hope, nay, expect, that our students will continue to exemplify EAB’s ideals through their own acts of kindness and gratitude. Moreover, it is through these seemingly simple acts that we not only improve the quality of our own lives but also make a positive difference in the lives of others and, expectantly, in our greater community. Thank you to Edith for modeling gratitude and thank you to EAB’s teachers for modeling an essential element of our school’s mission and purpose.

Profile: I am currently working as the Head of School at the American School of Brasilia and publish a weekly blog at www.barrydequanne.com (Twitter: @dequanne)

Featured image: cc licensed ( BY NC ND 2.0 ) flickr photo by Molly (moominmolly): http://www.flickr.com/photos/moominmolly/2533284776/

About Barry Déquanne

Barry Déquanne is currently working as the Head of School at the American School of Brasilia. His blog explores topics in K-12 education and school leadership within the framework of five focus areas: Academics, Activities, Arts, Leadership, and Service. The blog also explores professional articles and highlights recently read books.
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