This was shared as a reflection at our Queens University College of Arts and Sciences faculty meeting in August 2023.
Kindness in English, chesed in Hebrew, is a concept that appears in the Torah more than 190 times. In Judaism, there are 613 commandments, and kindness is one of the most significant.
Dr. Cate Denial asked us yesterday, “When have we experienced kindness in academia?”
My answer was countless times across the Queens University campus throughout my seven years here.
Martin Buber, a great theologian and philosopher, said, “Every person born into the world represents something new, something that never existed before, something original and unique….If there had been someone like her or him or them in the world, there would have been no need for them to be born.”
I would say the same thing about our faculty. “Every professor brings to our faculty something new, something that never existed, something original and unique.”
We each have our valued place as we form our unique and creative faculty and CAS faculty that will uniquely and creatively advance our school. I have always felt welcomed and supported by my colleagues, even in my most insecure moments of experiencing imposter syndrome.
“How can we teach with kindness?”
Dr. Cate Daniel enlightened us.
I’m going to add something new to our tool box, called “the pause”.
A great pianist was once asked by an admirer, “How do you handle the notes as well as you do?” The artist answered, “The notes I handle no better than many pianists, but the pauses between the notes – that is where the art resides!”
So does the art of teaching lie in the pauses…
Of taking of time – when we ask a question to wait for the answers.
Of making time – to listen and learn from and support our colleagues
Of embracing time – to nourish our bodies: physically, intellectually, and nutritionally.
Of sharing time – on the campus with others, in the pause between the classes, when we see our colleagues, staff and students and connect.
Like in Cate’s presentation, in Judaism kindness involves justice. The concept of kindness is pervasive in Jewish legal codes. It grounds legal decisions.
Dr. Denial calls us to have justice ground our interactions with our students… when our students falter, when our students fall short of meeting any rigid demands of academia due to harsh socioeconomic or social realities they are facing.
Kindness is about the pause – taking time for others and taking time for ourselves.
As we enter a new semester, may we use our pauses well for our students, for each other, for ourselves, and for our souls.