Teaching children to care, to navigate society with success, and to maintain some sense of respectful conflict resolution is a full time job whether you are a parent or a teacher — and I was both. I will be the first to admit that as a first-time parent I knew very little about any of that but, I think— I hope — I got better with time. Much of what I learned on how to parent came later in life from my training in Responsive Classroom on how to build a caring, learning community at school. Responsive Classroom techniques rest on the premise that the social curriculum is every bit as important that the academic. Maybe even more so. Good academic behaviors are not going to happen if the social aren’t in place. There is no doubt that the successes in my classroom as well as my home came from Responsive Classroom tenets.
The political news of the last year and half has been disconcerting to say the least but it has me wondering about the staying power of lessons learned as a child. Once Responsive Classroom was in place, I rarely had a class I wasn’t proud of regarding their social behavior. These were not perfect kids. They did not have perfect homes. They did not have the perfect teacher. We worked together to learn from each other. We understood the importance of taking care of one another, of respecting the environment and our differences and, when things went sour, of using appropriate behaviors to make things great again.
When Shep Smith of Fox News lamented the lies, lies, lies stemming from Team Trumpp [sic] regarding “that Russian thing,” I couldn’t help but think of my former second graders. Where are my students now? As adults, are they still caring about the people around them, respecting their place and space, finding solutions in a respectful manner? Are they still trying to make the world a better place? Many of the adults in the news (fake or otherwise) are not nice people but they were all second graders at one time. At what point, were these learning lessons of childhood put aside or forgotten?
Recently, I happened upon a code of conduct put out by a children’s day camp. It reminded me of an elder in my church community who said, “The church is only as strong as the next generation.” That can be said of any organization but today I’m thinking of our democratic nation. Chris Wallace, in response to Shep Smith’s frustration, said this, “This really shouldn’t be a matter of liberal v conservative, pro-Trump vs anti-Trump. If you’re a fair-minded citizen, you ought to be concerned about the fact that we were repeatedly misled…” Sighing and eye-rolling aside, I loved the phrase “fair-minded citizens.” Teachers and parents alike strive to encourage fair-mindedness in their children and, with great determination on our part, our fair-minded children will grow into fair-minded adults. Presidents even!
Sadly, many adults in the news today, some of which are rather high profile, model inappropriate social behaviors. I hope the children aren’t watching. Perhaps the lessons needed most these days come from the children themselves as they practice their camper’s code of conduct:
Be a responsible member of the camp community.
Be considerate and respectful of others’ feelings and needs.
Think in advance of the consequences of my actions.
Assure my own and others’ safety.
Resolve differences in a respectful manner.
Protect the natural environment.
Commit to honesty.
Commit to try.
I guess a lot is riding on the next generation, eh?