Most of you this summer probably saw the video of middle school students bullying and harassing a bus monitor. The video went viral and newspaper articles soon followed bemoaning how cruel and rude students are today.
One of the better articles I read on this topic was in Psychology Today entitled "Teaching Civility in an F-Word Society."
The author, Marilyn Price-Mitchell, identifies the key elements of civility, i.e., how we treat one another, as self-control, empathy, and respect.
As a head of school, I am always looking for a succinct list of skills, habits, attitudes that Orchard strives to develop in children.
While schools have the obvious responsibility of developing students academically, Orchard also focuses on developing students' character, including self-control, empathy, and respect.
According to the author, developing students' character is more important than ever due to the un-civil world kids are growing up in.
What are the causes of this overall decline in civility?
• An informal society with vague or even non-existent rules for expected behavior
• An Internet-based world where anonymity frees one of personal responsibility
• A reality-TV culture where talking behind people's backs and using people in a Machiavellian manner are celebrated and rewarded
As parents and educators, regardless of how we try to shelter our children, they are indelibly influenced by the norms and mores of contemporary society.
The only way to combat these societal influences is through "cognitive dissonance" in class and at home where positive adult role modeling and frequent discussions help children see the value of qualities like self-control, empathy, and respect.
If not at home and at school, where will children today learn that value of being a good friend, citizen, and of having respectful debate and healthy disagreement?
The author ends with a list of ways we can help children learn civility:
1. Lead by example.
2. Think about the impact of our words and actions on others first.
3. Treat children and adults with the respect that we expect them to treat others.
4. Apologize when we are wrong.
5. Disagree with intelligence, humor, and civil discourse.
6. Don’t let anger and emotion get in the way of listening to others.
7. Teach character strengths, like respect and empathy, at homeand in classrooms.
8. Demand civility of our politicians and public servants.
9. Set ground rules for civil behavior at home and in classrooms.
10. Challenge people’s views but don’t attack the person.
11. Be tolerant of people who are different from us.
12. Praise others for their civil behavior, regardless of their viewpoints.
13. Empower children to take a stand against bullying.
14. Remind kids often why we should be civil.
15. Teach kids how to become engaged citizens.
I am very proud to be a member of a school like Orchard that focuses on the development of the whole child--cognitive, physical, social-emotional.