Tuesday, December 6, 2016

R-E-S-P-E-C-T for All



In the wake of this year's US election, it appears that we've lost our moral compass when it comes to respecting others. Many people have used the election as a platform to spew hate, disrespect, and prejudice, most notably through social media platforms towards those that have voted in a manner that they do not agree. It's quite disconcerting and worrisome that a great many individuals seem to be unable to discuss the outcome of the election in a way that's mindful of others' feelings and without judgement--no matter which side of the political spectrum they're on.

As a PYP school, Seisen aims to teach our kids about tolerance and celebrating diversity while encouraging understanding and empathy. We continuously strive to have our students "put themselves in another's shoes," and to approach conflict with the purpose of expressing our opinions in a respectful, solution-focused manner. I can imagine that most parents and other adults attempt to instil similar values. The question I sometimes ask myself is this: Are we practicing what we preach?

Recently, I went into one of our grade 6 classrooms to talk with the girls about respect: respect for themselves, respect for the environment and respect for others. We started the conversation on this very broad topic, which will become much bigger when we get into talking about stereotypes & prejudice, which I'll also link to our assumptions about political parties.

For now, I'll introduce what I put on the board (from goodcharacter.com) in grade 6, to give them a bit of a think:

Are You a Respectful Person?
  • I treat others the way I want to be treated.
  • I am considerate of other people
  • I treat people with civility, courtesy and dignity
  • I accept personal differences
  • I never intentionally ridicule, embarrass or hurt others (gossip, rumours, etc.)
Mr. O'Shea followed up this brief discussion by having the students actually rate themselves on these using "Never," "Sometimes," and "Always." Though this was just a small exercise, I feel as though it's important to have the girls continuously reflect on their behavior and attitudes towards others equally as much as they reflect on their schoolwork. Here were some additional thoughts by a few of the students:

"Most of my answers were 'sometimes' so I would like to make those 'sometimes' answers 'always' to become a more respectful person."

"I ALWAYS treat people the way I want to be treated because treating each other without respect is not fair especially if the person is very innocent and didn't do anything. I SOMETIMES accept peoples differences because sometimes when I learn something about something else that I find weird, sometimes my voice just comes out like oh my gosh or something like that. I NEVER segregate people with their skin colors because I think that skin color was just not chosen just like flowers and their petal colors. They are all so pretty."

"I ALWAYS accept peoples differences because everyone is different to everyone else like for example if their religion was different I don't care.  I SOMETIMES talk behind peoples back but not like bad things but good things, but I don't want them to know. I NEVER gossiped before and I think that it is so rude to that person."

One of the books I plan on using with them is called Mr. Peabody's Apples, by Madonna (yes, the singer!), which was inspired by a 300 year old Jewish story by the Baal Shem Tov. What's its moral? We must choose and use our words carefully to avoid spreading untrue rumours and causing harm to others. We must also be careful about what we believe and, therefore, repeat.

Parents, I'd encourage you to discuss what respect looks like and what it does not look like. When you see an example of respectful or disrespectful behavior, please point it out. There is plenty of it on TV, in movies, and in the news media. For grades 4 and above, the book Wonder is a fantastic fictional story (but showcases a very real genetic disorder) about how we should treat others who are different than we are. It was highly enjoyable to read even as an adult, and easily lends itself to conversations about respect, empathy and tolerance. Another book that is a great example of a lack of respect, in the form of group bias, is The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss.  It involves characters (Star-Belly Sneetches) that deem themselves as better than the Plain-Belly Sneetches simply because they have stars on them. As stated previously, in the coming weeks, I will begin to have the conversation about prejudice & stereotypes, and will be looking to this book as a teaching resource.  More to come on this topic!

~Ms. Carnright















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