Principal’s Corner

December 2015

 

What It Means to Be an Advocate

In our diverse and complex Village learning community we all interpret and engage in life and each other through our own experiences and context. When Village school was founded 20 years ago it was obvious that bringing together a diverse community under one schoolhouse roof necessitated a common language and understanding of expectations. Since the inception of our school we have employed Positive Discipline to build mutual understanding and empathy as our way of making sure we are all present and available for our students.

Over the past 20 years our families, students and staff have continued to refine our practice and incorporate tools to build and sustain a united, empathetic, rich and caring community. Tools such as Project Cornerstone, ABC Readers, No Bully Solution Teams, PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention and Support) and the MMS (Make good choices, Model respect, Solve problems) all work together with Positive Discipline to build a common language and expectation of behavior for all.

Building a caring community takes more than simply recognizing that differences exist. It requires us to advocate for each other and to take action to ensure that people’s differences do not prevent them from succeeding in our learning community. It is important to understand that equity does not mean equal. Equity means that each member of our community receives what he or she needs in order to fully participate. People need different things in order to achieve the same level of success, or “equality.” We, individually and as a community, must advocate for those who struggle in one way or another, and recognize that in a community all members contribute at an infinitely varied level. This appreciation of difference enables on-the-ground advocacy, which is vital to the sustained success of our entire community.

The true measure of our success as a community is how we respond to situations where understanding and advocacy are difficult and where personal conflict arises. Sometimes the hardest charity to provide is that of a warm greeting when your impulse is to walk away. Saying hello to a community member, a child or an adult, with whom you do not already have a relationship can be difficult but can build enormous positivity for that person’s day.

It is important to realize that people respond to challenging circumstances differently based on their personal context, so reactions that may appear unexpected or surprising to one may well seem relevant and appropriate to another. We are all members of the Village family and, on occasion, family members act out or suffer in many ways. It is through patience, caring and seeking to understand that families abide and sustain each other. Particularly at this time of year, I encourage our community members to be advocates for those who we know are struggling and for those who may be struggling—be kind in your daily interactions, contribute to a person’s positive interactions bank, build a child’s confidence.

During this season of joy and reflection I urge us, the Village learning community, to understand that we are all different, to celebrate our differences, and to work together to embrace each other and learn from our differences, ensuring that our practices and equitable distribution of resources create environments that guarantee all members are cherished and thrive.

 
 
 


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