Focus Fortnight: Kindness

Monday 13th November was World Kindness Day, and kicked off our Focus Fortnight on our core value of Kindness. Over this two weeks we are encouraging all students, staff and members of the Academy community to make a special effort to carry out acts of kindness for one another. Here are some of the suggestions that have been made:

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There are global movements like Random Acts of Kindness and Pay It Forward which are founded on the idea that if each of us acts kindly towards another person for no other reason than that it’s a nice thing – the right thing – to do, it has the cumulative effect of making the world better for all of us. This is something that is really important to us at Churchill, which is why it is one of our three core values. It was also the theme of my Kindness Assembly back in March.

When we do something nice for no reason, everybody benefits. We feel better; we make somebody else’s life better too. Not just this fortnight, but from now on, we want to make sure that we all choose kindness. Do something nice for somebody else. Help one another. Not because there’s anything in it for us, but because when we do something kind, we’ve made school a nicer place for someone else to be. And if it’s a nicer place for someone else, it’ll be nicer for us too. So when we choose kindness, everybody benefits.

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You can take a “Be Kind” pledge on the This Morning website here, and view some more “kindness” videos below:

If you’ve noticed a special act of kindness, please let us know in the comments or contact the Academy. Thank you!

Behaviour for learning

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Churchill Academy & Sixth Form’s Attitude to Learning Scale

This year at Churchill we have made behaviour our number one priority. We wanted to build on our already high standards to ensure the very best behaviour and conduct from all our students, all the time.

In March this year the government published an independent review of behaviour in schools. The report’s author, Tom Bennett, says:

“A student’s experience in school remains one of the most insightful indicators of later life success in any one of a number of metrics. For many it is the best chance they will ever have to flourish. How they conduct themselves at school is crucial to that experience. Helping them develop good behaviour is therefore one of the most important tasks a school faces…

…Whatever one believes the aims of education to be, all of [them] are best realised in schools where good behaviour is the norm, and antisocial, selfish, or self-destructive behaviour is minimised.”

It’s hard to argue with Bennett’s conclusions. Here at Churchill we believe that good behaviour is the foundation upon which a successful education is built. It’s a minimum expectation that students at Churchill will be polite, well-mannered, and tolerant, but we expect not just compliance but active participation in learning and taking responsibility for the choices they make. That’s why we use the Attitude to Learning Scale (pictured above) alongside the Code of Conduct (below) to help our students understand our expectations of them.

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Churchill Academy Code of Conduct

The Code of Conduct lays out our expectations of student behaviour in, around and beyond the Academy; the Attitude to Learning Scale helps students understand the things they need to do in lessons to ensure they are making the most of their opportunities to learn and make progress.

Each subject reports on Attitude to Learning in every progress check, but teachers can now reward students for demonstrating “Highly Motivated” attitudes in lessons at any time through our new rewards system. Similarly, whilst students may receive concerns for breaking the Code of Conduct, we are now placing an increased emphasis on giving rewards to those who consistently meet or exceed our expectations. Our aim is to use this positive reinforcement to ensure that those students who behave well consistently are recognised for their part in building a culture where exemplary behaviour and attitude to learning is the norm. It is this interplay between behaviour and attitude to learning that ensures the best chance of success in school.

Our staff and students have responded brilliantly to this new focus. Since the start of the term, our 1481 students have been awarded a staggering 8335 reward points for attitude to learning alone, alongside over 2000 for excellent classwork and homework and 1148 for demonstrating our values of kindness, curiosity and determination or making a contribution to Academy life. In total, across all categories, our students have been awarded 12,794 reward points in three weeks!

It’s safe to say it’s been a good start to the year.

Assembly: Kindness

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A lovely thing happened the other weekend. I was working in my office at home, when a paper aeroplane came soaring through the air to land nearby. Written on one wing were the words “open this”. Intrigued, I unfolded the aeroplane to find a lovely message from my six-year-old son.

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“Dear Daddy I love you love from Joseph”

I asked what I had done to deserve this wonderful gift, but there was no reason. My son had just decided to do something kind – and it made my day. It got me thinking about kindness, and what motivates us to do something nice for somebody else.

Of course, there might be selfish motivations. People might do nice things because they think there’s something in it for them. It might help their reputation and social standing, or there might be a financial reward in it for them. Or there might be a sudden emergency and instinct could kick in to help someone in danger…

All of these are completely understandable motives for doing something kind and nice for other people. But what we see in the video clip was that, as one person came to help, so did more and more, until everyone on the train and platform was united in trying to help the single passenger in distress. This domino effect is powerful, and it can happen more slowly and subtly than in the emergency situation we saw on the station platform in Australia.

There are global movements like Random Acts of Kindness and Pay It Forward which are founded on the idea that if each of us acts kindly towards another person for no other reason than that it’s a nice thing – the right thing – to do, it has the cumulative effect of making the world better for all of us. And this is not a new idea!

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Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius was Roman Emperor from 161 to 180 AD, and a renowned philosopher in the Stoic school. In his book Meditations, he lays out his guide to self-improvement, including in the twelfth book this simple advice:

If it’s not right, don’t do it

If it’s not true, don’t say it.

This is a great maxim to live by; indeed, if we all stuck to that rule, our world would certainly be a better one. The only thing I take issue with in Marcus Aurelius’ advice is the note of prohibition, of telling us what not to do. I would revise it to:

If it’s right, do it.

If it’s true, say it.

But of course, truth always needs to be tempered with kindness. And, before we act or speak, we need to think carefully about our actions and words.

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This came through to me most powerfully this year when I heard the tragic story of Megan Evans. 14-year-old Megan, from Milford Haven was found dead on February 7. She had been the victim of online bullying, which her mother Nicola Harteveld believes drove her to take her own life.

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Megan Evans

“Megan was bright, vivacious, happy, hugely popular, sporty, confident, outgoing, fiercely independent, just a normal, happy go lucky teenager,” Ms Harteveld told Phillip Schofield and This Morning co-host Holly Willoughby, when she appeared on the show in February.

When Megan started to be inundated with bullying messages on Snapchat, she kept it to herself. Her mother said: “We’re all distraught, and angry because no one noticed anything different with her.”

The final message she received read “Why don’t you kill yourself?”

Megan replied saying: “Ok.”

The fact that somebody in Megan’s life chose to express cruelty and unkindness had the most tragic and devastating consequences. Her family and her friends – and the young person who sent that final message – will be living with the consequences of that for the rest of their lives.

However, it doesn’t have to be that way. In 2007, Jonny Benjamin, aged just 20, was diagnosed with a mental illness, schizophrenia, and hospitalised. Desperate, and unable to understand his condition or see any way out, on January 14th 2008 he walked out of hospital in London and on to Waterloo Bridge, intending to throw himself off into the icy waters below. Hundreds of Londoners were walking across the bridge on their way to work. How many of them saw what was happening? How many walked on? We don’t know. But we do know that one man stopped and spoke to Jonny. He offered to buy him a cup of coffee, and he said words which changed Jonny’s life. He said: “you can get through this. You can get better.”  Up until that moment, nobody had told Jonny that getting better was a possibility. And, in that moment, Jonny himself stepped back from the brink. After twenty five minutes of talking, he came down. The police took him away. And the stranger went on his way to work.

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Jonny Benjamin

Jonny went on to control his condition with medication and treatment, and became a campaigner for mental health, raising awareness of the condition so that other sufferers have people to tell them “you can get through this; you can get better.” In 2014 he ran a campaign to find the stranger on the bridge who stopped and helped him six years earlier, using social media to track him down. He found him. He is a man called Neil Laybourn, who said this:

“In truth, it could have been anyone who stopped that day. It could have been the person behind me, but this time it was me.”

Neil’s kindness saved Jonny’s life, and Jonny’s life has gone on to save countless others through his campaigning work. He couldn’t have known that at the moment he chose to stop and help; in that moment, he was just doing the right thing because it was the right thing to do.

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When we do something nice for no reason, everybody benefits. We feel better; we make somebody else’s life better too. At school this week – and from now on – make sure that you choose kindness. Do something nice for somebody else. Help one another. Not because there’s anything in it for you, but because when you do something kind, you’ve made school a nicer place for someone else to be. And if it’s a nicer place for someone else, it’ll be nicer for you too. So when you choose kindness, everybody benefits.

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You can take a “Be Kind” pledge on the This Morning website here, and view some more “kindness” videos below: