Oh, Just be Nice!: Reading, Writing and So Much More!!

Are you interested in sharing your ideas, insights and questions? If so, click here to sign up for a post. Julie Vincentsen, Principal of Ruggles Lane School, will reach out with specifics. Are you interested but nervous because you’ve never blogged before and don’t know where to begin? Don’t worry – as long as you know how to use Microsoft Word you will be up to this challenge. We write for our communities all the time – this just changes your audience. You probably could even take a current newsletter you’ve written and repurpose it for your colleagues.

by Peter Bachli, Principal, Cheshire Elementary School, Cheshire, MA

As Elementary educators, we work hard to teach so much more to our students than literacy, STEM and history.  In the current climate of social/ emotional well-being, we see more than ever the need to teach children the basics of how to become a kind and caring human being.

Sometimes it is in spite of the environment they may be living in.  This makes it an even greater challenge.  It can get frustrating and exhausting, but if you work to build a community that values respect and kindness, then we have a much more pleasant school climate in which to work and to live. In addition, students, as well as staff, are better engaged with teaching and learning.

With some luck and persistence, it just may spill over into students’ lives outside of the school walls and that is our ultimate goal. When we were introducing the acts of kindness initiative to the students in our school, some talked about times when someone was not kind and how it blocked the process to solving a conflict and how it made others feel when they were not treated with kindness and respect.

picture1This initiative, started last year, has spawned many ideas and activities for our school to help to, “just be nice!” We have held whole school community gatherings to share acts of kindness, we have done some fun events like a kindness chain and for the month of December, students and staff will add a bulb to our hallway and lobby to “light our school with kindness.”  It is a nice way to make it a constant reminder of the good things happening in a world that can easily become consumed with negativity.

As we launched this initiative, we took time to listen to the children and their experiences. It did not take long to realize that most of the examples they were citing also involved adults in their lives.  Their remarks and trying to live this philosophy inspired the article below I recently included in our school newsletter after a rash of difficult parent meetings.

“Oh, just be nice!”

choose_to_be_niceThis was the statement on a bumper sticker that I saw on a police cruiser when I was on vacation last summer. I chuckled at it being on a police car and thought it was great. I also thought that it really is that simple.  If people are just nice to each other, things go so much better and issues can be respectfully resolved.  During the course of the last month, I have felt quite overwhelmed by some interactions with parents.  There have been a larger than usual number of confrontational, disrespectful and even rude phone calls, e-mails and conversations.  There have also been some positive ones too, but I was surprised with the others. I get that our school is deeply involved with parents’ most precious commodity, your children!  This makes issues very personal.

We know that parents get upset and may not agree with the way that teachers, staff members and myself handle a myriad of issues.  That is O.K. and you certainly do have the right to contact us if you have a question or concern.  I am simply asking that you do so in a respectful and courteous way. If you are angry, take a few moments to calm down before contacting anyone.  Please know that we are all working in the best interest of ALL of our students. Often the only source of information you have received is from your child and they frequently have not seen the whole picture. Sometimes we have to make decisions or take action that is different from how some would parent their own child.  It is quite different in a school setting.

So, moving forward please set a strong, positive example for all of our children teaching them that it is O.K. to ask questions and to have a difference of opinion, but things can get resolved faster and with less stress if we remember to “just be nice”.  Thank you.

I know that as Principals, we all deal with the vast array of parents and guardians as well as students, but this simple article has helped to change the frequency of confrontational parents and has helped to create a nicer environment at our school. Is it eliminated? Not likely, but it has been a positive step and it does set a good example for our children and will keep us headed in the direction of developing nice, productive citizens and who does not want that.  It is in just about every school’s mission statement for a reason.

Thanks for reading and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!

peterPeter Bachli is in his eighth year as the principal of Cheshire Elementary School in the rural town of Cheshire located in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts.  Peter taught at the elementary level for 22 years before joining the ranks of administration.  He has been on the Board of Directors of MESPA for six years as the Berkshire County representative.  He lives in Dalton, MA with his wife and two daughters.

Are you interested in sharing your ideas, insights and questions? If so, click here to sign up for a post. Julie Vincentsen, Principal of Ruggles Lane School, will reach out with specifics. Are you interested but nervous because you’ve never blogged before and don’t know where to begin? Don’t worry – as long as you know how to use Microsoft Word you will be up to this challenge. We write for our communities all the time – this just changes your audience. You probably could even take a current newsletter you’ve written and repurpose it for your colleagues.

 

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