Nurturing a Culture of Kindness at The Country School

By: Neil Mufson
Our overarching theme this year at The Country School is one of kindness.
Over the course of this school year, in addition to all the learning our children will experience in academics, athletics, and the arts, we will continue to work on building our students’ capacity for kindness and empathy. We are doing so not because I sense a fundamental “kindness deficit” at TCS, but because these traits are not innate or spontaneous human capabilities. They have to be taught and modeled — not just at home but also in the primary community to which our children belong: their school.
We adults can’t just expect kindness to take root. We mindfully have to create a community of kindness each year, each month, each day. Of course we focus on kindness primarily because it is the right way to approach others. But also there is considerable research which finds that individuals — and communities themselves — best grow and flourish when kindness is the norm. In The Power of Kindness by Piero Ferrucci, the book that our faculty read this summer, the author points out that practicing kindness also leads to gains in “time affluence, life satisfaction, immune function, longevity, business success, popularity, self-esteem, and a sense of belonging.” It is difficult to imagine reaching one’s potential absent immersion within a setting in which kindness, empathy, and caring are the norm.
All of these benefits also stand at the base of our Helping Others, Helping Ourselves (HO, HO) community service program. Most fundamentally, we have our children help others because we want them to learn that part of being human and humane implies a responsibility to serve others. Like in The Power of Kindness, a recent New York Times article entitled “Why Doing Good Is Good for the Do-Gooder” points out that older people who regularly help others enjoy “health benefits like lower blood pressure and decreased mortality rates, greater physical mobility and less memory loss.” “Do-Gooders” also report possessing a stronger sense of purpose, more robust feelings of human connection, and higher levels of happiness and fulfillment.
Throughout the 2018-19 school year, we will highlight how kindness benefits individuals and communities alike. We will overtly focus on the building blocks of kindness (practices like honesty, warmth, patience, and gratitude) and utilize teachable moments to make The Country School as supportive a school environment as possible. It is through inculcating an attitude of kindness within our children that our school will best help all make the most of their potential and offer the most to others — during the new 2018-19 school year and far beyond. Welcome back to school!

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