The other morning before school I walked down the pathway towards the senior school and one of the Year 4 boys grabbed his handball and said 'Are you alright, Ms Sands?' I looked at him in surprise, 'Yes, sweetheart, I'm fine.' 'Oh, that's good - you were holding your tummy and I thought you were sick.' And with that he went back to his game.
The night before I had received a distressing email from a parent who was clearly at her wits end about the swearing and racist name calling her children were being exposed to in the playground. Her concern was that this sort of talk was virtually being tolerated in our school. And she believes that we are not doing enough to challenge the behaviour and stop it.
In a school where a premium is placed on social and emotional development, where dedicated lessons in social and emotional literacy are taught every week in every classroom, where our efforts in this area are recognised as outstanding by the Department of Education, where dedicated staff work with individual and groups of children to assist them develop self awareness, self management and respect, and where all staff display and model integrity, kindness and compassion; how is it that the thoughtless actions of a few give rise to the perception that all children are behaving like this and that it is being tolerated?
I love our kids - the well behaved ones, the naughty ones, the ones who smile and wave, the ones who swear, the ones who look horrified when someone says unkind words, the ones still learning what unkind words are, the ones with tons of friends and the ones struggling to form relationships with others - all of them, I love all of them. And as a school we will continue to teach them how to be humans of the highest integrity in our world through our learning programs, expectations, and processes for dealing with less than desirable events and behaviour.
We need parents to partner with us in this. We need parents to stand by us and reinforce with their children what is acceptable and not acceptable in our world, parents who censor what films their children watch and what video games they play, parents who discuss the effects of racist and sexist language with their children, parents who are prepared to take a stand with us and tell their children that 'enough is enough' and that swearing and name calling needs to stop, and parents who feel so strongly about this issue that other parents who tolerate it feel pressure to monitor their own behaviour.
We can do this together and we need to be kind to each other...