Anti-Bullying Week: Three ideas for cultivating kindness

Written by: Martha Evans | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Ahead of Anti-Bullying Week 2021, Martha Evans offers three ideas for how we can cultivate a kinder school environment and create a happier school, including five questions to get your pupils thinking about kindness...

Do we spend enough time asking if our school is a kind place for children to learn in?

Kindness matters. Having worked to tackle bullying for nearly 20 years, the Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA) has seen time and again how small acts of kindness can be the turning point for a child who is on the receiving end of bullying.

We know that kindness has many proven benefits to not only the wellbeing of those receiving it but also for those being kind. But kind words of support can also set the tone for the whole school community, embedding a more positive ethos which can reduce bullying.

Anti-Bullying Week 2021 (November 15 to 19) reflects these concerns. The theme of One Kind Word was chosen in close consultation with more than 400 children, teachers and parents. They wanted to focus on how kindness is more important today than it has ever been.

The isolation of the pandemic has underlined how little acts of consideration can break-down barriers and brighten the lives of the people around us.

Again and again, the young and not-so-young told us they wanted anti-bullying work to be about hope and the positive and kind things we can do to halt hurtful behaviour in its tracks.

So, how can you unlock kindness within your school community? The free teaching resources produced for Anti-Bullying Week this year have three ideas for cultivating kindness…


1, Get your house in order

Before doing any work on kindness and counteracting bullying we need to give a thought to any students who are currently experiencing or witnessing bullying and identify how your school will respond.

Students should know how to report bullying. They should be aware of the expectations of behaviour and should have the language to talk to a trusted adult about their experiences when something goes wrong.

They should also be aware of the way the school will respond, as set out in the school’s anti-bullying policy. Above all children must feel that there are kind people who care and can help if they are struggling with a bullying-related issue, and they should know how and when to turn to this person for support.


2, Pupil reflection on the five kindness questions

The five kindness questions below are important ways for children to think about how we can show kindness to each other and to ourselves. It is vital that pupils are given the space to reflect on what being kind looks like and how it feels when they experience instances of bullying or nastiness. Having these discussions may raise issues or emotions for students, so teachers should be on the look-out for any pupils who show signs that they need support.

Schools should reiterate how important it is to be kind to yourself. Sometimes when we develop really self-critical tendencies we can end up bullying ourselves and it is crucial that we show ourselves kindness and understanding in the way we (hopefully) show it to others.


3, Disagreeing with kindness

This Anti-Bullying Week, we want to take a fresh look at kindness to find out if it is possible to disagree in a kind manner. One way of doing this is to ask your students if they can think of any times in the media (television, films or among influencers) where people have disagreed kindly and times when they have not. For example, they might talk about political debates that become personal or the latest reality television episode.

Ultimately students should understand how people can disagree in a kind way (be it online or face-to-face) without it tipping the balance into bullying or without getting personal.

The key message is that it is okay for us to disagree or not always get on, but it does not have to turn into bullying behaviour or unkindness. It is up to us to manage how we react.


Conclusion

By focusing on kindness during Anti-Bullying Week we hope we can start a chain reaction in schools, starting with one kind word and leading to a ripple effect where attitudes and behaviours change for the better. In a world that can sometimes feel like it’s filled with negativity, a little act of kindness can provide a moment of hope. It can be a turning point. It can change someone’s perspective. It can change the course of a conversation and break the cycle of bullying.


Further information & resources


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