“…the ascendancy always belonging to kindness that never melts into caresses, and is severely but uniformly beneficent.”
-- George Eliot, Scenes of Clerical Life, Book 2, Ch. 4
Kindness is important to me as a teacher, but only a certain kind of kindness -- perhaps George Eliot’s kind. This, you might say, is a disciplined kindness, a way of teaching that makes consideration for others a constant, steady, but not demonstrative presence. For some of my colleagues – superb teachers, I should add -- kindness sometimes “melts into caresses” and other physical expressions (pats on the back, high-5s, etc.), but that’s not my way. Over my years in the classroom, a more closely controlled kind of kindness has evolved in my teaching – a kindness that enables me to shed some genial influence on the students but in an unobtrusive and perhaps even unnoticeable way. Sometimes I think of myself as a sort of lamp set off to the side of the classroom – a lamp that glows with a kindly light so the students feel more content and cared for than they might otherwise. I’m thinking of a modest lamp, one that spreads its friendly light evenly to everyone in a “uniformly beneficent” manner. I hope that just by entering my classroom the students feel the presence of kindness the way they might sense the reassuring presence of lamplight at home.