#SoTLwalk May 2021: Kindness

The lovely Dr Natasha Taylor from RMIT is at it again this month, with the topic of Kindness. So let’s dive in right away:

What role does kindness play in your teaching and professional identity? What does it mean to teach with kindness; to learn with kindness? How can we harness the power of kindness in our work relationships? How can you make your teaching space (physical or online) a kinder, more positive and productive place?

We’d love to build a collection of examples of kindness in practice – in language, actions, leadership, random/selfless acts, generosity with time/attention, remembering we all have our own story, saying thank you, really ‘seeing’ people, bringing fun/joy. It could be something you do yourself, or you could recognise someone else for their kindness!  Big, small, downright wacky…as ever, you are free to take the ideas in whatever direction you like!

— Dr Natasha Taylor

So maybe not dive in right away! This is the fifth attempt to write the first paragraph. Not sure I would use the word kindness, but I care. I care about my learners and colleagues, and try not to be too much of an [insert inappropriate word here].

This is how my value driven professional identity translates into practice

There are two principles I use in teaching and other work interactions:

Pick up people where they are and take it from there.

— an axiom I inherited from culture education

Meet the other with unconditional positive regard.

— an axiom that stuck from my CBT training

It is about wanting to see the other, to notice them. Of course I lapse, and sometimes the ADHD Brain gets the better of my intentions. But in principle these are the two key rules I follow. It is important to see someone; to challenge our own first reactions. Because we will judge, and link whatever we are given in a communication to our own experience, and see it through the glasses we are wearing in that moment. It takes practice, and maybe it is a form of mindfulness, to consciously realise your immediate reaction, acknowledge it, and then take a step back within our selves and ask: Is there another way to understand, or interpret what I have been given in this communication? Is this an act of kindness? I am not sure; but it is an act of recognising the other’s perspective.

This image shows a city skyline but only the tallest buildings which poke out above the clouds. I believe that's Dubai
Photo by Aleksandar Pasaric on Pexels.com

But maybe some stories will help?

in language,

Inviting language can create spaces–save spaces or not so save ones. Language and culture are inevitably intertwined. How my language meets your language can either create or disarm friction. I try to keep my language open. Creating a space into which someone can step. Like when we stand in a circle at a conference lunch and move a bit to make space for someone else to join.

of course, delighted to, looking forward to, you are most welcome, exciting, wonderful,
but also
fabulous and awesomesauce

The secret ingredient is to actually mean it! If I don’t have ‘the feels’ I am not saying it or writing it.

Vulnerable I sometimes call it ‘showing belly’–your weak side. If I am tired, exhausted, worried, unsure I share. If I don’t know something. I say so. I am sure I told you before that during a conference a colleague told me that I am a risk taker because when I was talking about exam fears and anxiety with my students I shared my own experience of exam angst and strategies with them. I just call this being authentic.

Vulnerability might not sit easy with everyone, and if the mere thought of admitting to your learners that you are worried or exhausted is stressing you–don’t share.

generosity with time/attention,

Making time is the most valuable thing I can do, because we are acting in a time poor environment. So often making time is a sacrifice, a no to something else that does not get done. However, making time to support, listen, chat, experience with the other, is so important. And if I can see a student and/or colleague looking more chipper, relieved, motivated, cheery, for it. Or they tell me they are clearer now, have a plan, and idea, an actionable thing they can take forward, than that’s worth it.

remembering we all have our own story,

How do we make more space for stories? It’s also important to remember our own stories and filters through which we interpret interactions.
Where is the space and support to engage with this?

saying thank you,

always, and celebrating each others’ successes, too!

bringing fun/joy

do relentless optimism and bad puns count?

This image shows a Lavender field in sunset
Photo by David Bartus on Pexels.com

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