I stopped to grab this picture on the way to a volleyball tournament Saturday morning. It was this massive black rain cloud, and in the left corner, the tiniest streak of rainbow. I love visual metaphors, and this one had last week written all over it.
It was a bit of a stormy one.
Don’t get me wrong, there were lots of great things happening! But sometimes it’s good to share when things are hard work too.
Besides being the first full week back, which can feel like we are a month in already, there was a lot of cold and flu and general summer-withdrawl malaise going around. We had a staffing change so the timetable needed revamping, and extra curr commitments began in full swing. It was a busy one.
A lot of emotional energy was also spent in some social justice discussions this week. There were some really interesting thoughts around privilege, hateful and hate speech, and the consequences of the words we use. I’m on Twitter a lot. And I get sucked into reading the comments. So you’d think I’d totally anticipate the strength of people’s responses.
I never fully do.
It got pretty stormy. That little rainbow was hard to see at times.
I’m working my way through the book “Hacking School Discipline: Ways to Create a Culture of Empathy & Responsibility Using Restorative Justice.” In it, the authors say, “Perhaps one of the most valuable traits we can teach our students is how to feel empathy. Empathy is not shaming students or making them feel bad, but teaching them to understand those who have been affected by their actions, as well as the need to repair the harm.”
“We have two choices: try to correct behavior by continuing to punish, or spend time building relationships, getting down to the root of issues, and helping students repair the harm they caused…Punishment might be quick and easy, but the Band-Aid effect is short-term. Restorative practices take effort, but the effects are long-term.”
It also made me think about my beliefs in the classroom. There were a couple of times this week, even knowing that the benefit would be short term, where I wondered if I should just take the quick and easy path.
To lock my door and shut out late students.
To move out my tables and bring back desks and rows.
To stop randomly assigning groups.
To plant myself as self-appointed expert at the front of the room.
To remove the messages and symbols of inclusivity.
To assign books to kids.
To assign marks to reading.
But I didn’t. And I can’t.
Why not? Because it goes against everything I believe in. Like the restorative practices above, a podcast by Peter Block says that “the determinant of wellbeing is our connectedness to each other and our willingness to do this thing together…there’s a misbelief that more control leads to better outcomes. It’s true on a manufacturing line. But we are not manufacturing. Don’t call children products.”
If you’ve listened to Sir Ken Robinson, you’ll know how he feels about that factory model.
Knowing that I shape the conditions for learning in my room, I make deliberate choices. “I don’t care what the world looks like. I always have the capacity to create a future in whatever room I enter in.” (Block)
And I will always make choices that foster growth, not compliance.
I want the room students enter in, to be one that is glad that they are here. To support them and help them to learn courtesy and responsibility.
I want to foster conversations. Encourage ideas. To disagree but with respect. “Unpopular opinions are welcome; impoliteness isn’t.” (Weinstein)
I want students to listen outside of their immediate peer group. To collaborate and work with a variety of people. As Block says, “All transformation occurs in a smaller group.”
I want students to be confident in their ability to think and discover ideas on their own, and not rely on someone else to do the work of learning for them.
I want students to see themselves, and the whole of our society, reflected in the flags on the walls, the books on the shelves, and the messages spoken and written in our room.
I want them to choose for themselves. To be self-aware enough to reflect honestly, and to push themselves outside those comfort zones.
I want them to read for the enjoyment it brings. To write to express themselves. To represent an idea in a creation. To speak up and be heard.
To see the big picture…the little rainbow too, and not just the storm.
I don’t want them to take the easy way out, any more than I could.
So we will continue to get to know each other, to build relationship, to ask questions and to really listen to the answers: ‘How is this year going? What’s working for me? What am I frustrated with? And what can we do together to make it different?’
Looking forward to some sunshine to get harvest going again! Have a great week everyone.
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