“…the best news of all.” David’s speech ended, and along with the rest of the audience in the school auditorium, his mom and dad clapped and whooped. David beamed; his hard work earned the winning speech contest entry. His parents and teachers had nurtured and encouraged him all along the way.
Sarah, one of David’s classmates, had watched and listened in awe. A tiny sprout of bravery broke through. Maybe I could give a speech, too, she thought. Her confidence began to grow.
The following day, noisy students filed into their classrooms. Then the halls were quiet. Classes hummed with the sound of teaching, discussion and debate. A secure calm permeated.
No student was hiding in a hood or under a ball cap. The principal roamed the halls, firmly directing loiterers back to class and holding those misbehaving accountable for their actions while recognizing those doing the right thing.
The unruly student who’d bruised a teacher’s arm was suspended for five days. The principal reassured the teacher, and followed through on a plan to set the student on a respectful path. No one let the student blame others for his own choices. His parents were part of the plan and expected to do their part, or risk their son’s expulsion.
Point cards were eliminated and replaced with graduated plans for lasting behavior change and improvement. Expectations were kept high, and the school partnered closely with parents. Misbehavior was followed up with healthy, loving discipline which included consequences.
Sarah and David were free to concentrate on their studies. These studies included reading instruction based on the linguistic logic of English, concrete-pictorial-abstract progression in math, and American history (the real stuff, not the Zinn stuff), to name a few.
Teachers maintained autonomy by utilizing effective pedagogy and producing results. They didn’t wield their academic freedom as a bludgeon for those in disagreement with their ideologies. A commitment to students and their families was undergirded with the sacred idea that children belong to their parents, who have ultimate authority over them.
Sarah and David were taught character values and civic virtues. Rather than focus obsessively on their feelings, they were taught to do what is right in all circumstances, understanding they are in charge of their actions and their emotions.
Sarah did not have knots in her stomach or feel afraid at school. David knew he could learn in safety. The adults at the school believe in each student, and the students know it. When mistakes or bad decisions by adults are made, the foundation and consistency of high expectations and level-headedness enable the school to get back on track.
Whole Heart Elementary, USA. Not perfect, but dedicated to and honoring the parents and teachers closest to the work of educating young people.
Leaving everyone – smiling.