How your school can pay it forward

James Polansky

A former committee member of the Association of Teachers of Mathematics and UK Mathematical Association (Meridian Branch), James Polansky has taught for 6 years, most recently as head of Mathematics and mentor for trainee teachers. Having studied at Colegio Monteagudo in Spain, Bradfield College and Cambridge University, James qualified as a Mathematics teacher in 2009, achieving a 1st Class (distinction) in his PGCE following an 11 year career in derivatives trading. James and his wife Suzanna have three children.

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Images courtesy of author. Images courtesy of author.

The usual school grading system rewards and highlights academic success, but as educators, we have a responsibility to prepare our pupils to be responsible, active members of the community, with a moral and social responsibility to improve the world they live in and to fight discrimination and reduce inequality. As teachers, we know that theory is one thing, but to embed a thought behaviour, or an action, one must practise it regularly in a hands-on manner. So how best to go about this in 2018/19?

In the 2017/18 school year, we at Boundary Oak School decided to put our ethos into action and actively express the heartwarming, “We respond to acts of kindness by being kind to three other people in return.”community-orientated values that we instil in all of our pupils in a tangible and powerful way.

Following the international movement known as Pay it Forward, which involves experiencing an act of kindness and passing it on, the Boundary Oak community’s Pay It Forward campaign encourages staff and pupils to respond to acts of kindness by being kind to three other people in return.

We are not only advocating for this behaviour at an in-school level, but are also undertaking activities throughout our community, from everyday tasks like reading to the elderly in nursing homes and picking up rubbish, to our ongoing partnership with local homeless charity Two Saints, as well as Reedham’s Children’s Trust.

The all-ages programme sees adults and children alike prioritise caring for those around them, and exposes the pupils to walks of life that they might not otherwise get to see, aiming to help them develop empathy and generosity.

The success of the programme was built upon the natural compassion of our community, but the activities themselves, such as becoming pen pals for those in care and lonely, or participating in park, beach and woodland clean-ups, are not ones that we always seek out in our busy lives. We wanted to use them to continue the proactive giving.

In the 2018/19 school year, the campaign will be strengthened further. A variety of ways of showing in-school kindness will be continued, such as family fundraisers and awareness celebrations, a kindness chain in pre-prep, a book swap with kindness notes in the cover, and even just giving some love to Milo, our black Labrador therapy dog.

Milo the therapy dog.

The boarding population of our school community will make birthday videos for military parents posted away to reaffirm how simple thoughtfulness can be worth more than anything money can buy.

Outside school, we’ll get into the Christmas spirit by helping our neighbours, singing carols and packing gift boxes for less fortunate children around the world. Meanwhile, we will show our appreciation to those who are generous with their lives by visiting war veterans and giving cards to those in our emergency services.

Taking the time to perform acts of goodness and see the impact these have on others’ lives has given the Boundary Oak community a sense of fulfilment that some students had not previously experienced. It also opens the door to a potentially new goal, skill or passion, which is a core aim across everything that we do.

These are all activities that you and your school can easily implement and explore, and if you do so you, will reap the benefits. They’re not grand gestures on an overwhelming scale; they are simply about recognising others around us, being there for those who may need an extra helping hand or just a friendly ear, as well as putting smiles on faces across the school setting and within the community.

The UK Pay It Forward Day’s official motto is “It’s possible for an idea to change the world”. It has certainly changed our school community; could it change yours too?

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