Do you ever watch people and wonder. We are traveling as a family this holiday season and have many a political debate. I love it when we respect each other’s thinking and bring our daily life experiences to the table to challenge one another. This I think is one of the things that I enjoy most about having adult children. We have always been a family that encouraged awareness of current world events and the repercussions of such events on us as individuals and as Canadians. Of course one of our most recent conversations evolved around “Sony’s choices” in their cancellation of a most recent film. Did Sony really have a choice? Our son in-law suggested that the game all played out as it was intended. The U.S. President would rescue Sony and Sony would keep themselves safe from any impending law suit should , heaven forbid, a disaster strike. Our eldest daughter strongly suggested that Sony had caved to social pressure and each of the seven of us had our own opinion. I sat back and considered all that was being said and wondered about the educational impact and decision making that had led to this situation. We discussed comedy and its role in today’s society. Is the work that we do in schools and our engagement of citizenship in elementary and middle school impacting the decisions that our twenty somethings are choosing? Are we missing something? We read school mission statements, and they often include the words safe and caring. What does a safe and caring world look like? Is it humorous to build ourselves up to find entertainment at the expense of others? Is it a statement on our own humility?
It matters to me as a school leader how we speak to one another in our building. I expect the adults in our building to expect polite and respectful conversation from our students. Sometimes I have caught myself wondering if I am too petty about this daily expectation. If I don’t hear a please or a thank you, should I pause and start over with whoever I am speaking to ensure that these simple words are part of our conversation? Do I model kindness and respectful conversation, ALWAYS? Don’t get me wrong. Respectful conversation does not mean compliance. I expect debate and questioning and discourse to foster a climate and culture of excellence. However, I believe that such debate must be open to all voices and must be respectful of all members of the community. The loudest and most cutting does not lead the debate.
When we foster a community of respectful debate, speaking our thoughts and opinions kindly and listening to the thoughts and opinions of others in our community, we are able to learn and support one another and perhaps have an impact on future generations through our students. I don’t believe that the dental students of Dalhousie University meant harm however, they also had not learned that harming others is not a fashion by which to make ourselves stronger.
Maybe that’s what I love about our family discussions, we have wonderful debate with respect. We genuinely care about each other’s thoughts and opinions and are not out to win an argument but to learn from one another.