Welcome to 2023 and a “new year”! With the balmier temperatures this week, it’s been a “gentle” return to classes for children and teachers. While January is usually the time of snow and ice, it is also a time of resolutions and reorientation for many people. As we prepare report cards to share next week, we hope you will be able to see the progress your child is making and their opportunities for growth as we tackle the second half of the year together.
Something all schools encounter following an extended break is the blip of some students “burning up on re-entry” – that perennial experience when holiday bliss gives way to the structure, schedules, and expectations of work-a-day school. Ugh! I mean who really likes any of that, adults included?! In order to re-enter the School’s “atmosphere” effectively this week, let’s all be on the lookout for students who need support transitioning back to books and basics.
I think we can likely all agree that part of any effective school is the tone and tenor of the schoolhouse itself. In musical parlance, this refers to “the attitude, stance, or posture that is perceived by the audience”. In school terms, this may refer to the behaviour, self-regulation, and respectfulness perceived in the classroom and beyond.
When we prepare report cards each year, there is an important section that addresses exactly this area of development. It is usually covered under headings such as Learning and Social Skills and its purpose is to highlight the attitude with which a student engages with people in the learning environment.
Back in the day, this dimension of education was sometimes expressed in the following way: “Johnny or Suzie demonstrates an understanding that rules exist for the common good” (or something like that!). In short, that Johnny and Suzie know how to act by showing respect for themselves, their environment, and others by putting forth their best effort. From time to time, we understand that not every child is at his or her best. Stresses at home or struggles with learning or with peers can impact the school day in ways that create obstacles.
Nevertheless, the school is the great equalizer when it comes to covenants of behaviour, effort, assessment, and evaluation and, as teachers and parents, we must do our part to ensure that all students put their best foot forward.
Our job as parents and teachers is to be respectful of our students and to help them learn. Part of this is having high expectations for them and ourselves. It’s not our job to humour kids when they’re in a bad mood or when they act out – especially, if they are negatively impacting the learning or quiet enjoyment of others around them. No workplace in the real world does that and since we are “raising future adults”, we need to bear this in mind.
If we see a faltering step on the path to acceptable school behaviour or attitudes, it is important to let logical consequences take their course and leave it at that – no long lectures or apologists on behalf of the accused. Just recognize the facts and allow kids to experience the consequences of their (sometimes) bad choices.
In the end, that is often where the real learning begins. Our goal must not only be academic success, but social-emotional success and the ability “to work and play well with others” – including teachers!
And let’s not forget that a kid “on the ropes” for poor behaviour or lack of effort never wants his or her parents and teacher on the same team. That kind of zone offense works in basketball – and it can also be a highly effective form of motivation when the heat is on.
Ric Anderson, Head of School