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Cultivating Kindness in the Senior School 

Senior School
Senior School student exhibiting kindness during Terry Fox run 2023.

On the Professional Development Day on Friday, February 16, GNS staff and faculty were fortunate to enjoy a virtual keynote presentation by John-Tyler Binfet, an Associate Professor Faculty of Education at UBC. His presentation was about his passion; cultivating kindness in schools. Author of Cultivating Kindness: An Educator’s Guide, he talked about the significant benefits of kindness in schools in promoting and supporting good mental health and well-being for both students and their teachers. He referred to schools which intentionally promote kindness as kindness-oriented schools. 

GNS, through its value of caring, is such a school. We value our community and strive to be caring and respectful of each other. Binfet talked about three different types of kindness: reactive or responsive, planned or intentional, and quiet or without anyone noticing. He talked about the value of a smile and kindness as being prosocial behaviour that is recognised worldwide and which “inflates our kids’ life vests,” making them more resilient and buoyant in life.

Referring to his UBC study which determined that classroom kindness declines as students get older, Binfet noted that “[A]s students enter the upper grades, their relationships with teachers become less personal and more formal and this may influence the lack of kindness observed by teachers as students get older.” He notes how important the teacher is in enacting kindness “which not only helps students interact positively with one another, it also contributes to the community of the school and beyond.”

In his research entitled Kinder Than We Might Think: How Adolescents Are Kind, Binfet concludes that “[A]lthough there are common themes in the acts of kindness done by adolescents, so too is there variability in how adolescents express kindness. The research presented here helps challenge prevailing stereotypes of adolescents as mired in conflict and especially self-focused. The kind acts done by the adolescents in this study and their self-ratings and perspectives on themselves and their kindness encourage parents and educators to consider that adolescents are perhaps kinder than we might think.”

Throughout the year, there are moments when we can explicitly focus on acts of kindness through our initiatives. For example, honouring Truth and Reconciliation and our support of Indigenous Peoples by wearing our GNS Orange Shirts; the delivering of Flowergrams on Valentine’s Day to show our love and appreciation for one another; wearing our GNS Pink Shirts on Pink Shirt Day where we celebrate love and kindness in our community as opposed to bullying; and celebrating PRIDE Month with our LGBTQ+ community. 

At the beginning of this school year, Rebecca Nielson and I pledged to focus throughout the year on seeking and sharing joy in all of the work that we do, and thus “Operation Joy” was born. This has permeated our weekly assemblies, spirit and fun days, and staff meetings. Highlights have been the whole PW community Terry Fox Run and Roll which was a spirited and fun event led by students; pumpkin carving, a haunted hallway and Trick or Treating during Halloween from the Principal’s window; the holiday brunch for all students; the lip-sync battle; assembly competitive games such as Would I lie to You and Jeopardy; and Spirit Week in November with spirit events such as the tug-o-war.

As we begin our sprint towards the end of the year, we challenge students, teachers and parents to cultivate caring by participating in Random Acts of Kindness. Kindness is contagious. Just smile and see what happens…

Yours in kindness,

Carolyn Green, Principal, Senior School