I tweeted a nice thing that I saw on the bus the other day – an example of quiet kindness from one kid to another. It went like this:
Kid just tried getting on bus with a used pass.— Tom Starkey (@tstarkey1212) May 21, 2019
Driver quietly explaining without shaming that he can't let him on.
Bigger lad behind him from same school just paid his fare.
A whispered thank you.
"It don't matter" in return.
But it does.
I thought I’d whack it out to the interwebs because it was a pretty cool moment; all involved were being thoughtful and civil (not necessarily a given on a hot and sweaty morning commute), and to be quite honest, I get bored as all hell rooted to the top deck for a couple of hours every day. So I often chronicle the goings-on of the various routes I travel to work, as it stops me going insane at the folk that leave their bags on the seats beside them, even though the late 51 is rammed.
They will be damned for their selfishness.
More on this: Primary pupils encouraged to spread kindness
Other news: 'Children surprise us with kindness every day'
Anyway, I tweet a lot, so I didn’t give it much thought. But then it went a bit viral and at the time of tapping this out, 18,000 people had "liked" it on Twitter and a few thousand had retweeted it. For someone who spends most of his time on social media arguing with educational consultants and making very, very bad puns, the way it took off surprised me.
A lot of the comments focused on the rarity of catching positive moments involving school kids.
Now, contrary to the tweet, I’m hardly a romantic when it comes to how children are and how they can behave. The vast majority of my teaching career was spent working in educational environments that would be described, in the modern parlance, as "challenging". I’ve seen countless acts of violence and cruelty perpetrated by children and young people towards each other, as well as those that are trying to educate them. When I was a teacher, that was my reality.
But, on the other hand, there was also an underlying thread (so common that it was almost mundane) of unthinking kindness that ran through each and every day in schools, colleges and alternative provision. A helping hand here, unsolicited praise for a mate’s piece of work there, concern that someone was struggling, smiles, comradeship, humour, self-sacrifice, charity, gestures of kindness both large and small. Every day. Every single day.
An ever-present light
I think the tweet was popular because we all know young people can be absolutely wonderful, but it’s not often the case that this is pointed out.
This ever-present light can sometimes get eaten by the representation of young people as uncaring, unthinking and apathetic (and don’t get me wrong, they can be that, too), but they are also giving, concerned, and in most situations, just want to help. Much like people at large.
What I tweeted wasn’t out of the ordinary, spectacular or exceptional – it was an example of the good I’ve been lucky enough to witness that occurs almost constantly in places of education up and down the country. I just think that good is sometimes easy to forget and perhaps that’s why people responded the way they did.
Sometimes we need affirmation that the kids are alright.
But that, in itself, is telling.
Tom Starkey is an education writer and consultant