How do we change the culture in our schools?

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culturechange2As we look at the question of bullying in our schools and how to deal with this issue, it may be that we should stop looking at the kids and wondering what is wrong with them and ask ourselves what are we doing that sets a better example for them.  If our goal to change the culture of schools to a culture of kindness and a culture of peace is to come to fruition, we must include everyone – including ourselves as parents, teachers and administrators.

How do we go about changing culture?

Step one:  Set Expectations – Ask ourselves what do we want our culture in the schools to look like?  What are the core values that we want to live by in the classroom to be?  Does everyone from administration to the student understand what those values look like in real action?  Do they agree that these are good goals?

Step two:  Role model – This step after agreeing to what it looks like is the personal practice.  As the teacher in the classroom am I demonstrating the core values, am I living them?  As the administrator in the school, do I treat the teachers and custodian with the same level of respect when asking them to do something that I expect from the students when they make a request of a teacher.  Every school may have different core values or we could call it personality traits.  Each school though would agree that respect is at the top of the list.

Step three: Teach your students – As we are adjusting ourselves as parents and teachers, there is something very helpful about teaching the values and social skills that we want to see in our students and children.  This should be done on a daily basis, just the same as the way we teach any subject.  While the role modeling is our biggest teacher, helping student in just 3 minutes a day to understand how the skills can be seen in real world will also be a great aid to the teacher.  ETED is the acronym for Every Teacher Every Day – shall I add in every class.  Teaching the values and skills of a peaceful society in every class by every teacher tells the student – this is not a program – this is what our school does. 
Three steps, none of them are particularly easy.  All of them require that we think about what we stand for and believe in and force us to work on ourselves.  Most if not all of our teachers and administrators have Masters and Doctorates.  Our goal is to live Mastery – not willing to have a mediocre classroom – but to have a peaceful, kind classroom that kids are enjoying learning in.  As a group of dedicated educators we can change the culture of our schools and classrooms.  If you want to learn more, please contact me to start the process in your home or in your school.

Showing respect in school

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greetingThe one thing that brings the greatest amount of angst or embarrassment to a parent is when their child shows a lack of respect in a public place – where others are able to observe the behavior.  Disrespect can be shown in many different ways in different forums – really by anyone.  Lets talk about showing respect in our community starting with school.

How do we show respect when we are in school?  It may begin with how we treat the teachers, classmates and even the support personnel in the school.  Of course we expect that our children demonstrate respectful behavior towards the teacher.  What does that look like?  Following the directions given, doing work quietly without disruption to the class.  It may also include see what additional help we might be able to give the teacher – running errands, cleaning up after ourselves and others, speaking to them as if we value their efforts.  As a side note if teachers would like to have respect shown towards them, then they also must show this same respect to the class, by being well prepared, addressing them without sarcasm, providing their expectations in a clear and reasonable manner.

What about our classmates?  How do we show respect for them?  When they are answering a question are we listening closely or are we wildly shaking our hand in the air because we want to talk.  Respectful behavior would be to put our hand down and listen in a manner that shows that we value what they have to say (even if it is not the “correct” answer).

When taking a quiz or test, being sure that we answer our own questions and not be looking to others to help us on a test (cheating).  Being fair to others is a way of showing respect.  This is true even on the playground or in the cafeteria.  Respect can be shown by being kind to each other, even if they are not a part of our closest acquaintances.

Continuing this thought about school – are we careful with the equipment in the classroom?  Treating books, the media room equipment, the chairs and desks with the utmost care, knowing that others need to have use of this equipment is a way of showing respect for the property that does not belong to us, but that we have been invited to use while we are in the classroom.

This sort of culture in the classroom and school really begins by working on this at home and reemphasizing it as our children go to school.  Even teachers who show respect to their students will find that the students will return the respect.  Working on this culture will  have its rewards in the community – not just at schools but also at restaurants, grocery stores, museums, and other public venues.

We are aware – Now we need to change

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In NJ there has been an incident of hazing that has rocked the community.  There are still some on both sides of the story, some accepting it as a part of ‘team’, and some still afraid to speak out openly.  Here is our take on this situation.

Hazing is bullying.  Bullying is abuse and while it is good to hear that it is being recognized as such, the idea that the students in this latest incident “tolerated and in general accepted” this culture and behaviors – it tells us that is was also tolerated and accepted by the adults in the school.

At this point those who have been targeted with the hazing are still afraid to voice their grievances out loud.  On Sunday night this particular community is gathering for an anti-bullying community event to raise awareness in the community and “to help in the healing process”.   Here is my take on this:

We are already aware.

We are aware that bullying in not acceptable.  No one thinks it is an acceptable behavior, especially when it is happening to them or to their child.  Generally very few people have stepped up to change anything until there is a major incident like this one that has affected them personally.

We are awareWe are aware.
There are enough posters.  
There are enough sayings.
There are enough laws and rules.  

What we have not done is change culture.  Until we change the culture in our schools, with everyone – parents, administrators, teachers, students – we will continue to have these kind of incidents.  All of us determined to create a culture of peace in our schools and  communities can be very powerful

Culture of Peace is the answer to bullying

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In just one week  I will be presenting on four occasions the topic, Creating a Culture of Peace in our Schools at AACC.  For months now I have been preparing this presentation because of my belief that it is not about rules, posters and punishments that will change what is happening in our schools – but rather an examination of the culture in each and every school.  As adults we have the responsibility and the power to help our children to learn to be peaceful, but creating peace starts with one – and that is ourselves.

In a recent interview the director of the documentary, Bully, touched on this point in a very powerful manner.  His comments are found in the video.  In the coming months we will be working to bring greater awareness to this subject, and I encourage each parent in our community to have this discussion at their school .  I am available to speak to this subject with parents and teachers in any school here in Anne Arundel County as we pursue peace in our schools.

Here is the link: Director of BULLY interview