Friday, 8 September 2017

Kindness - It Starts with Us

I've seen this image, and versions of it, all over social media lately:

But  here's the thing.  As parents, as teachers we have to show our students how to be kind not just tell them.  If we want our kids, our students to sit with the lonely kid in the cafeteria, then we have to do that ourselves.

As an itinerant teacher for several years, I was at a different school each day.  I also worked as a supply teacher for a year.

There were some schools I went to where I felt like the lonely kid in the cafeteria.  At one school, no one ate in the staff room.  Just me.  I had no idea where everyone else was, but I sat at the table in this HUGE room all by myself and ate my lunch.

At another school, it was like high school all over again.  The male staff sat together in one area of the staff room. Primary teachers sat at another table.  Everyone had their clique and I remember how anxious I felt as I wondered where I should sit.  No one invited me to join them, so I sat down and hoped I wouldn't be asked to move.  Don't laugh; I've seen teachers tell itinerants and occasional teachers to move because 'that's my spot.'

One itinerant teacher told me about when she was invited to attend a staff meeting at a school where she felt she had a good relationship with the staff.  She arrived early and sat at a table.  Slowly teachers arrived and begin to fill the tables around her.  Eventually the tables were all full, except hers.  She still sat alone. The next teacher to arrive approached her and asked, "Is this seat taken?"  She smiled and replied, "No," thinking that the teacher would sit down and join her.  Instead, the teacher took the chair and moved it so she could sit at another table.

Don't get me wrong, staff at many schools were warm and welcoming.  They invited me to join in their lunch groups and included me in their conversations. One school emailed me ahead of time to let me know that they were having a special teacher appreciation luncheon when I would be there for my next visit so 'don't bring a lunch because you're welcome to join us.' How nice is that!!!!

So if you say that you care less about whether kids are academically gifted and more about whether they sit with the lonely kid in the cafeteria, then be the teacher who welcomes the newbie to the staff room - the supply teacher, the itinerant, the new custodian, the secretary who is just here for a day, the high school, college or university student on placement.  As Gandhi  said, "Be the change you want to see in the world."


  1. Thank you for saying this. I spent years as a supply teacher and now that I am a full time teacher I sometimes forget to say hi to the person we only see every once in a while.

    1. Thanks for your comment. It can be easy to get so caught up in the busyness of our day to forget to stop for a moment and acknowledge the new people in our building or those who are only there occasionally like the school psychologist or speech therapist. Hope you have a great day today!

  2. Lisa - you absolutely nailed this! If we think that our students don't notice our interactions with our colleagues, we're fooling ourselves. most of the time, I think I'm
    pretty good at welcoming the newbie , and other times I know I'm in tunnel vision mode! The story I keep with me is one of a dear colleague with dietary restrictions, that most people were aware of. She walked into a staff meeting when she first arrived at our school, found that treats had been provided that took her restrictions into account, and started to cry. She was mid-way through a teaching career, and this was the first time she was going to be able to have staff meeting munchies. I was appalled, and kind of made a vow that I would do my darnedest to not have that exclusion happen to a colleague.

    1. Thanks so much for responding Lisa. As someone with food allergies, I can totally relate to your colleague's experience. I was fortunate that one of the support staff in my last assignment always ensured that there were no peanuts in the food she ordered for lunch, and that any nuts for salads were in a separate container.
      At one school I supported, the ECEs mentioned to the principal that they were on a different lunch schedule so whenever there was a staff luncheon on a school day, they and the other support staff ate afterwards, missing out on the collegiality and eating the 'leftovers.' It hadn't been intentional, and from then on schedules and supervision were rearranged so that some support staff could attend the luncheon at the same time as the teaching staff. Once we know better, we can do better.