As students settle into the routines of the school year and become familiar with their new classes, new teachers, new environments etc… they often can slip back into some bad habits. A common flaw in the character of many of us humans is to put someone else down or make a flippant comment, in order to generate a laugh; it is an easy way to receive attention. Most of the time people do not really intend to be mean or to make someone else feel bad but often this happens anyway and the person who is the target of the joke, or the comment, spends the rest of the day feeling less than happy.
It is interesting to note that those people that go out of their way to do the opposite of this – like finding a way to be kind or compassionate, end up getting a far better reward than just a laugh at someone else’s expense. Those who are kind and compassionate, experience clear benefits to their own well-being and happiness. Research actually shows that kindness helps to reduce stress and improve our emotional well-being and leads to greater longevity.
Our students all have a lot going on in their lives - the competing strains and stresses of schoolwork, a busy co-curricular program, family challenges, not to mention social pressures. This means that kindness is often pushed to one side, in favour of what is urgent now.
By taking the time to be kind to others, everyone can benefit from emotional upsides. It really does make a difference, especially for people who are vulnerable or struggling. Kindness to others can really help to improve mental health. Part of being kind is considering the feelings of others, so it’s very important that kindness is something that others will find helpful.
In assembly on Tuesday, I reminded students that they cannot control what others do, they can only focus on their own actions and if they try to make a small difference it will benefit others and themselves.
My challenge to them was simply to try and focus on ways that they can be positive around other people and support them, rather than looking for negative things to focus on and highlight. They will generate far longer-lasting laughs through an act of kindness, rather than an unpleasant put down. When they do get a laugh out of their peers as a result of a put down or a nasty comment, they were challenged to think about what their peers are really thinking of them and what reputation they are creating for themselves. One can never be sure what people are thinking but they are definitely not thinking that the person doing the put downs is a comedian.
Head of Senior School