As an experienced educator, it is good to be reminded that it is the small things we or others do that can make an impact.
After a stressful day at work with multiple deadlines today, I found myself exhausted having given every ounce of energy I could to meeting work requirements and my study targets. Yet I still needed to teach a group of 6 – 18-year-old children. With three adult helpers sick this left two of us to manage a group that usually required 5 adults. We planned some learning activities but found that the kids were full of energy and wanted to run around (literally) instead of what we had planned. On top of the extraordinary challenging day of work, changing this lesson felt like a rather large mountain to move.
One child in our group ( I will call him Alex in this reflection) is always pushing the boundaries, is very easily distracted, often does not work as a part of a group, and we spend a lot of time working with Alex to stay on task and be a part of the team. Today was no different, Alex was switching groups and activities constantly, wanting to do something different, distracting others. Usually, the dynamic between this child and the adults is one where authoritative demeanour by adults is the only way to manage Alex within a group.
An outside game was initiated in the carpark where the kids could play “Stuck in the mud” which seemed to appeal to the entire group. I was supervising, and watching the older children help the younger children and thinking that it was so lovely to see such a caring and inclusive group. They were adapting rules for safety and to ensure inclusiveness while learning about rules, teamwork and turn taking.
Midway through there was a bit of a ruckus, and it appeared that Alex was the initiator. I used a different tack than usual, used my intuition, and asked if everyone involved was okay? They all yelled yes, and the other children quickly went back to playing the game. Alex was quite slow to rejoin the group. I put my hand on Alex’s shoulder and asked if he was okay? My usual action would have been to manage the situation from a distance and be authoritative.
The response to this action was for Alex to turn to me and say, “I like your glasses you can have my random act of kindness card” and then handed me a printed card. Alex quickly rejoined the game. My first thought was, wow that is out of character and “random”. While the children played, I thought, with both acted out of the ordinary with kindness. I had shown a sense of caring and Alex had recognised this and return the gesture.
This reminded me that even when I am exhausted and frustrated a random act of kindness can be found in the most unusual places. The act of giving and receiving a small action like these can change an existing dynamic and cause me to reflect on my own responses and actions.