“There’s no place like home”. It’s an expression we will hear on stage next week during our production of The Wizard of Oz. There really is no place like home – no place where you’re loved more, no place where you can feel more yourself, and no place that feels safer. Home is also special for another important reason – it is the first and most important “school” and the first place where all the most important lessons are taught and reinforced.
One of the biggest compliments that can be paid to a school is when a parent or student describes their experience there as “like being at home”. Not because it is a place of “slippers, marmalade, and board games”, but because it is a place where mutual respect – motivated by genuine caring – reigns supreme. And I am not speaking of that indulgent “sticky sweet” kind of caring. I am referring to the kind of caring that is prepared to tackle the tough decision for the right reasons.
How does a school achieve such a loving home-like quality? By promoting a culture of mutual respect. And, as any “family” knows, mutual respect is the foundation of affection, understanding, fidelity, and loyalty.
A school that functions as an extension of the home will insist on respect from all of its members, young and old. It will honour other people and treat them with care and courtesy. While such respect includes good manners, the core of the behavior goes deeper than politeness. It stems from the belief that other people have as much worth and dignity as you, and that harming others – their good name or their property – is inherently wrong. Such expectations are not always upheld with equal consistency between home and school. Therein lies the challenge facing every school community. Where do we find common ground?
Aligning stated core values with goals for children is a big part of ensuring such coherence. Kids aren’t born respectful. They learn respect from their parents and other important grownups in their lives – through imitation and direct instruction. They also learn the importance of respect from the response of adults who are not afraid to react with firmness and consistency when it is lacking.
This morning I passed a primary student in the corridor. I wished her a good morning and asked her if she was looking forward to the weekend. She responded as she always does – joyfully, with twinkling eyes and a degree of mirth, “Yes, Mr. Anderson, but I also want to stay at school because school is like home!” She inspired my thoughts today. What a way to begin a Friday morning!
The parents of this little girl are doing an excellent job in forming such a respectful little person. I hope – in our own small way – that we are honouring their efforts.
Ric Anderson, Head of School