We recently acknowledged and honoured teachers on World Teachers’ Day.
During the day on October the 5th, I listened to children across the country being asked why they felt their teacher was special and needed to be thanked. The overwhelming response to this question was: ‘My teacher is kind.’
The dictionary describes kindness as ‘the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate’.
I believe that kindness is this…. and so much more. Children have different perceptions of kindness, depending on their age and circumstances. What doesn’t change is the how an act of kindness makes them feel. Nothing can take away the impact that a little bit of kindness, shown to a child in distress, will have. No matter where we are or what we are doing, there’s always an opportunity for kindness.
As educators, we have a blank canvas each day to show kindness at work – to the children that we teach, their parents or guardians, our fellow educators, and the support staff at our school. It’s a proven fact that a culture of kindness in the workplace can lead to greater success in an organisation – and it’s so easy to do. It’s a win/win situation because showing kindness to others makes us feel good too.
Kindness in the classroom and on the sports field gives children confidence to take part in group activities no matter what their skill level is. A kind sports coach will encourage an uncoordinated child to continue trying at his chosen sport without having to be the best. A kind teacher will say the right things to a child who is struggling academically that will motivate him/her to persevere. Kindness has no end – and it is within our reach as educators to model this value to our children every day.
Being kind doesn’t mean that all other values need to fall away. Kindness can run concurrently in your classroom along with being firm and maintaining good classroom management. This is achievable without compromising your role as the person in charge. As adults and as educators, we should be able to sense when a little bit of kindness is needed.
This term some of us will need to have a few difficult conversations with parents/guardians regarding their child’s lack of academic progress during the year. These conversations call for bucket loads of kindness! Parents are hurting for their children and are feeling enormously guilty for a variety of reasons. Try to keep your personal opinion and feelings about the situation at bay.
Show them some kindness for the sake of their child even if the parents are hostile and defensive to start with. You’ll be surprised at how a potentially volatile meeting can have a productive and positive outcome with a little bit of kindness thrown in the mix.
As I said before, kindness means different things to different people. It’s showing understanding and empathy in difficult situations. It’s not always easy to be kind but showing kindness when times are hard for you too, is even more meaningful for the receiver.
Being kind to ourselves always seems to come at the bottom of the list. Self-compassion is the term used for being kind to yourself. Without it, you can’t be kind to others.
Allow yourself some ‘be kind to me’ time too. It will make the world of difference to your well- being and your mental health.
Teachers are special people whose influence will stay with their learners for life. Thank you to those of you who have already shown your learners what kindness means.
Wouldn’t you also like to be remembered as the teacher who was kind? It’s easy – just try it.
Take care and have a great term.
Jenny (on behalf of)
The Teachers’ Support Team, Principals Academy Trust
16 October 2023
Watch our video version of this letter on YouTube: https://youtu.be/DbbqI8rfTs8
We have just celebrated Literacy Week in our schools. So many of you went out of your way to make it a special time for your learners and to encourage them to make books their friends.
The concerning thing is, that in some classrooms it took a specific week dedicated to literacy for it to become a focal point. It’s sad that this is the case. Literacy is the front and centre of all learning and without it we cannot move forward.
Being literate is one aspect of literacy but more important is being functionally literate. By this I mean being able to use language to read and write with meaning and understanding. So many of our learners, young and older, can rote read but this is of no value to them if they aren’t able to make meaning of what they’re reading. Functional literacy will enable them to become independent adults.
We have a whole cohort of learners who were severely compromised by the covid pandemic but it’s time we put that to rest now and look ahead. We need to find creative ways in which to encourage our learners to see the importance of being literate. We all know that children learn by watching others. As I’ve mentioned before, they spend more time with us in the classroom than they do at home so it stands to reason that we should be setting a good example for them to follow. Show the children how much you love reading and writing and it’s sure to make an impression.
There are numerous obstacles that stand in the way of functional literacy in our country, but we cannot afford to allow those to put us off. As educators in the Foundation Phase, we are trained to guide children to literacy – their parents or guardians aren’t so we shouldn’t be relying on them to do so. Providing an opportunity for reading, writing and language development is right there in our classrooms every day. It takes a conscious effort, but the opportunity is there, and we often miss it.
Functional literacy comes from being exposed to a wide range of reading material and a rich vocabulary. We have the tools to offer this to our learners by making every lesson, across the curriculum, into a literacy lesson. What better way to extend a learner’s vocabulary and understanding than by reading to them from a non-fiction book that ties up with the Life Skills curriculum? Maths lessons are an ideal opportunity to encourage and develop functional literacy. Choose your texts carefully – they must be age appropriate, interesting and leave the learner with a thirst for more.
Providing learners with an opportunity to share their development towards meaningful literacy is important and this can be done by allowing them to take books home to read to their family. Reading to their peers in the classroom also gives them an opportunity to show off their skill and will encourage others to do the same.
We need to be very sensitive to those learners who take longer to read and write. Create opportunities for these reluctant readers to showcase their development to you in private in a one-on–one, unjudgmental environment where they feel safe. Nothing will destroy a child’s self-image more than having to stumble through a piece of text in front of his/her peers. Be kind and encouraging and it will make the world of difference.
Take an interest in what your learners are reading and writing. Give them the opportunity to use different forms of writing to keep them interested. Encourage them to write, write, write. This will be a lot easier if they read, read, read!
Reading aloud for enjoyment is the foolproof way of enticing our learners into the world of literacy. Just five minutes a day will allow the learners to escape into a world of stories that will develop their imagination and vocabulary and set the stage for functional literacy to happen.
‘The world belongs to those who read’.
Let’s make it happen – we can do it.
Jenny (on behalf of)
The Teachers’ Support Team, Principals Academy Trust
#13 of 2023, 12 September 2023
Watch our video version of this letter on YouTube
Functional Literacy-It’s CRUCIAL