The past several days have been very politically charged across our nation. As is the case with any election – any decision, really – there are those who agree with the outcome and those who disagree. In our daily work as educators, we make hundreds of decisions on a seemingly never-ending variety of topics. We rule on questions as simple as whether or not it is too cold to safely allow children outside for recess, to the most serious issue of school security, and everything in between. While we do our best to honor everyone’s voice and consider their perspective in the decision-making process, in the end, there are always those that are happy with the outcome and those that are not.
I suspect many parents experience the same dilemma. The decisions the adults make can, occasionally, cause disagreement within families. Yet, I imagine most decision-makers hope that the children and the adults that are affected will respond to these judgment calls with respect, thoughtfulness, and in a manner that generally maintains a safe, positive climate.
Equally as important as the decisions themselves – be it the Presidential Election or a smaller, more local issue – is the way that we, as adults, model our responses for our children. Our country is divided in its political opinions, and, on a much larger scale, that division is not unlike the division school and families experience each and every day.
In school, we work diligently to model, teach and practice the expectations of being respectful, responsible, safe and caring. In light of recent events that have caused discourse for so many, it seems appropriate now to offer a gentle reminder that our children are watching and learning from all of us, particularly how we respond when we are unhappy about a decision or outcome. They watch every reaction from the smallest disappointment over what’s for dinner, to larger, global politics. As we react to any of life’s events, our own adult response will become the blueprint for our children’s reaction as they mature into adulthood.
As adults, we have an incredible opportunity each day to model both being gracious and humble when we get what we want, and courteous and respectful when we don’t. It is essential to our Democracy that everyone has a voice. Yet, the expectation that engaged citizens will express their thoughts – and being civil while we do so – are not mutually exclusive.
Civility is a skill to be taught and practiced, regardless of your political opinion. It’s never too early to teach, discuss, model and practice a response to both our successes and failures that show children that successful adults can both win and lose with dignity and grace.
This week presents a unique opportunity for us to take the lead and show our children that the expectations we teach at school can – and should – extend beyond the school day and beyond the school walls. On behalf of our children, we have both the opportunity and responsibility to respond to life’s events with civility, regardless of whether we agree or disagree.
Christopher Dodge is the Principal of Fletcher Elementary School and is a regular contributor to the FWSU Blog. You can follow him on Twitter @FletcherFalcon