As we conclude the first month of school, we have accomplished some important goals that will ensure a successful year. Teachers have introduced classroom routines and parents have demonstrated support of our commitment to “expecting the best” from our students who are here to learn.
When it comes to learning, it is clear that teachers are the decisive element in any school. Their words set the temperature in the classroom and their example sends a strong signal to students regarding what is acceptable and what it not acceptable.
During the day, teachers have a professional and ethical responsibility (and, in fact, are enjoined by The Education Act) to operate in loco parentis, which is Latin for “in the place of a parent” – specifically, in the place of a prudent parent.
What does prudence mean for those of us who teach? It may sound like an old-fashioned or anachronistic concept; however, prudence is a quality that never goes out of style. It is synonymous with wisdom, good judgement, common sense, and reasonableness. It is a quality easily observed in teachers who make careful decisions for sound reasons.
Teachers are in the business of making hundreds of “prudent” decisions a day as they work to balance the needs of many children with common goals for academic, social and relational learning. At the heart of such a “prudence project” are expectations regarding good manners, right conduct and respect for others.
In our individualistic age, it is not uncommon for such qualities to be dismissed as “old fashioned” and it can make the work of teachers challenging. When a child is used to being put first, it can be a powerful adjustment to experience the daily reality of being “one among many”. This is a very important lesson in prudence (…and a reality check!) for many children.
One among many. Let’s consider that for a moment. When it comes to life lessons, it is what children learn about how to manage their own behaviour and attitudes that will matter most – and, in the end, ennoble them. Pushing to the front of the line, asking for seconds before even saying thank you for firsts (!), “chirping back” to the adults in their lives with impunity, or playing “fast and loose” with the truth when facing the consequences of inappropriate behaviour or bad decisions – all of these represent serious impediments to personal growth, if they are addressed in a milquetoast manner.
If our children’s teachers are prudent, we should be grateful. In the end, their consistency and commitment may be the decisive factor in fostering the same trait in their students.
Developing prudence allows children to weigh all facts carefully and then do not what is easiest, but what is wisest.
Ric Anderson, Head of School