Sometimes the simple act of reaching out and connecting with someone is enough. A good start to a good day, week, life … is just stringing a bunch of those moments together without letting that natural process get derailed by anxiety, bias, fear or time. Kids are so open to the process, accepting each other as they are right now and working things out in just that context.
One of the core values in our school is the democratic process. The rules are written by the kids as the needs arise…real time awareness of needs, practicing listening and compromise, arriving at consensus.
Or, as they see it … making sure we all get to play, nobody is left out and no feelings are hurt. Just that easy.
We start this pretty much the first day and continue to revisit, review and revise as needed. Everyone’s idea is written down, it’s a visual reminder that also honors the process. When someone forgets a rule, it’s easy to remind them that “you and your friends agreed that….”; rather than imposing (and then enforcing) an arbitrary set of rules that are designed for our convenience instead of the children’s understanding of how to respect each other and coexist. The process is practicing the art of listening, understanding and compromise, getting needs met and creating a working community through consensus.
The whole point is to create a sweet, safe, environment where learning how to be successful with others is the primary purpose for being there. School should be a place that encourages positive connections and relationships, and where communication is the foundation for maintaining safe learning experiences. Our greatest contribution to meaningful social change is teaching our children to become, respectful, compassionate, proactive members of their school and greater communities. When we empower young children in this way, they will carry an innate sense of empathy and responsibility to do the next right thing.
They will also come home and practice these newly discovered negotiation skills on everything from bedtime to television to brussels sprouts. Let them! You’re opening a dialogue that will foster a trust and respect that will serve the whole family in good stead for ever.