Dr. Gereboff's Head Notes
Values in Action
Every now and then our children and our students surprise us by exceeding our expectations. A couple of weeks ago, our seventh graders did just that by actively advocating for the wellbeing of their entire class. Their actions beautifully demonstrated their value of the dignity of each person, a profound regard for community, and a “take-charge” stance.
Their surprising act came on the heels of an incident of derogatory ‘name-calling’ among a few members of the class. The administration and teachers followed our usual protocol of interviewing members of the class to get a clear picture of the context in which the misbehavior occurred, we met with the offending students and their parents, invoked consequences and held whole class lessons on name-calling and on by-standing. We – the staff – thought that the incident had been addressed.
But our seventh graders felt that they needed to do more to fix the problem. I was returning from lunch on the afternoon after we had concluded all of our meetings and research about this incident and one of the seventh graders told me that she and her classmates had corralled the entire class during lunch and had a session together where they worked through these issues as a group on their own. They described their conversation as civil giving everyone a chance to speak and to reflect their feelings, and they committed themselves to being “a community” of support for both the victims and for the offenders. They drafted a document (shared with me in a Google document) that was a code of conduct for their class. Their code of conduct consisted of 29 items that listed and described offending words and actions that were unacceptable. Items on the list included sexist and racist talk, teasing and making someone cry. I was especially moved by items near the end of the list: “Be accepting to others! Be supportive to others. Be willing to help someone out with anything. We’re all one big family (and don’t forget it!). Keep in touch after 8th grade.”
The students worked really diligently on this document – sharing it, editing it, and making sure that I reviewed and signed it with them. Most remarkably – they took the initiative. One of the students pointed out to me that “we are really all friends, and have been for a long time and we can’t let this break us all apart.” This was truly one of those moments that affirmed our school mission – these students are on the path to leadership – they take charge and have internalized the values of community, of not standing idly by and valuing the dignity of all people.
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