The potential long-term impact of acts of kindness

Last Thursday, the methodology topic I did with the PT Primary group was “From the central curriculum to the school coursebook”. We analysed today’s coursebook design and how each section of a coursebook unit corresponded with a concern in the official curriculum.

Towards the end of the session, I wanted to remind the teacher students that we should not follow the coursebook slavishly, because we should be teaching English, not the coursebook. Furthermore, when we teach at a school, as opposed to an institution like the British Council, which is tasked with teaching the language only, we are taking on additional roles on top of being teachers of a subject. In the Make a Difference movie, Ms Thompson had been preoccupied with teaching Reading and Maths, but after realising how she had all along neglected the personal development of Teddy Stallard, a low-performing boy in her class, she was ashamed of herself. “From that day onward, she quit teaching Reading and Maths, and instead started to teach children.” I played the Make a Difference movie to the teacher students, to finish the session on a moral note.

After class, on my way home, I couldn’t help recalling this scenario from my P2 year. In that year, my father, without any warning, suddenly died of a heart problem. In those days, teachers were not as approachable as they are today, so I did not tell my class teacher about it. A few days later, because of the funeral, I had to take a day of absence from school. The next day when I turned up in class, I handed a letter to the class teacher, and returned to my seat. The letter explained the reason for my absence on the previous day. The class teacher, a lady, read the letter, and then beckoned to me to go to the teacher’s desk. Nervously I walked up to her. Then, in a gentle voice, she said, “Work hard and be a good boy from today.” I nodded, and went back to my seat.

That scenario must have lasted for less than 10 seconds, and yet I still remember it after more than 50 years. Today I sometimes wonder: if I can be counted as a relatively caring teacher, has it got something to do with that 10 seconds?

You can never tell the influence that an act of kindness may have on another person. And teachers have lots of opportunities to make such influences. 


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