Nan Bahr, October 8, 2019
My mother’s reminder to me as I grew up was to think carefully before I gave anyone the benefit of my opinion. She told me to ask myself before I made any comments about people: is it right, is it necessary, is it kind? The first two are easy questions, but kindness is elusive and uncertain. For example; Is it kind to tell someone that their work is poor to save them the pain of failure? Or is it kinder to simply identify for them the types of things they could improve, without telling them the magnitude of their work’s overall weakness. So in this case the question is one of determining the greater kindness. Kindness is a moral construct in this instance. But kindness can also be a professional capability.
The professional teacher needs to be kind, agreed. No-one is going to say that kindness is not relevant for effective teaching. To be a kind teacher there are some required personal attributes such as patience and tolerance, and this is precisely what people tend to be referring to when they consider a teacher as kind. But this is not enough. A kind teacher will construct conceptual sequences in ways that take into account the perspectives of the unique learners that they are working with. A kind teacher will have the professional skills to evaluate the learning needs, challenges, barriers and motivations of heir learners to inform their pedagogy and assessment. The kind teacher will provide tailored information and feedback based on an understanding of the learning journey and developmental perspectives and needs of the student.
Fundamentally, kindness is about professional care and attention to the needs of the learners as individuals, in groups, in cohorts and across time. We can therefore learn to be professionally kind. With respect to our curriculum … is it right? With respect to our pedagogy and assessment design … is it necessary? And with respect to our professional knowledge of the needs of the learners … is it kind? When faced with a professional choice; choose kindness.