My family and I used to live in Maplewood, New Jersey. You have to wonder how a kid from the south shore of Long Island winds up in New Jersey raising a family, but that is a story for another day. Anyway, there was a great little fish market there on the main drag that always had really fresh fish that even my kids would eat! You’re probably scratching your head and wondering, where I’m going with this. So…let me tell you. Above the cash register there was an old beaten up wooden sign that said, “Because Nice Matters….” I always appreciated seeing it, and got to thinking that it would be a great way for me to communicate a couple of thorny topics.
These are Complicated Times
We have a million ways to divide ourselves. I once read and recently heard that the human body is comprised of approximately 3 billion genetic building blocks or genomes. They essentially make us who we are. I was shocked to learn that 99.9% of them are genetically similar in all humans. That’s simply amazing. So, while I am not a geneticist, it begs the question as to why divisions seem so strong. It would be awful if everyone were the same, there would be no diversity of thought, of appearance, of action, or of mind. Imagine how stuck the world would be in a state of complacency if we didn’t approach the world with different ideas, approaches, methodologies. That said, the science has me thinking about why the strong divide and why it seems that diverse opinions can lead to a development of dialogue and approach. Upon reflection, I think that respectful consonance can lead to stronger outcomes. I believe that debate is essential, and I believe it is our differences that can ultimately bring us closer together as a human race. I think our schools have a key responsibility to foster strong communication skills, critical thinking skills, and problem-solving skills that lead to growth. Our Shared Valued Outcomes were built around some of these principles. I think this is incredibly possible and achievable and we’ll work together with our students and the community to enact them.
Disrespect Comes In All Forms
It can be personal or professional; physical or emotional; silent or loud; overt or covert; intentional or unintentional. People or property can be disrespected, defaced, or defamed in ways that are hurtful and cruel. I am in the business of kids. I respect them a lot. They make me think about things in ways that I haven’t considered, they bring focus to my work, and they remind me how important it is to be a positive role model in both my words and actions. They sometimes do incredibly foolish, thoughtless, and/or impulsive things, and it is important that we use these as opportunities, whether they are disciplinary or not as a means to an instructional end.
Recently, I learned that the term, “KKK” and a profane word had been written on a piece of playground equipment. It was clearly written by a young person. It was reported to police, and our review of security tapes did not produce any leads or conclusions about when, who or even why this happened, and we removed it. Either way, it was deeply troubling. In the absence of any context, we can surmise a list of reasons for why this happened. None of them would be good and all of them would require intervention involving why using the term, “KKK” invokes hatred of all forms and some of the darkest themes in our history as a nation.
One of our goals this year is to address equity issues within the district and part of that work will be seeking out how we can capitalize on what makes all of us different to elevate our commonality. We’ll seek to arm students with strategies to be upstanders rather than bystanders, and enable them to be the very best versions of themselves. Like all of us, they will fall down from time to time and we’ll focus on those instructional opportunities to do better. There will be times that we’ll need to impose other kinds of consequences or interventions. Whatever the course of action, we’ll seek partnership with parents and community to resolve problems and shape positive behaviors among our students.
I ask that you take a few minutes to talk with your children about how our words have power, how our actions can have either negative or positive consequences, and how nice really does matter……
Til neste gang (until next time),