Our first week of school is complete and we are off to a great start here at Newton South. Students and faculty alike are excited and enthusiastic about the year ahead.
Yet we begin this year in the context of a national climate that is divisive, challenging, and ever-changing. As Superintendent Fleishman shared in his opening remarks to faculty and staff, there is no doubt that events and actions at the national level impact our school community by way of policies, conversations, and relationships. However, when such events are handled well by experienced and knowledgeable educators, they present real opportunity for learning.
It is incumbent upon us to prepare our students to listen (especially to perspectives different than their own), engage in well-reasoned debate, and stand up when they see injustice. Quoting Richard Weissboard of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Dr. Fleishman shared “educators need to confront dilemmas at the heart of our democracy, dilemmas that we rarely take on squarely in schools at any level. These conversations require teachers to navigate among basic human and democratic rights. Important as it is for teachers to promote the right to free speech and encourage multiple views, teachers also need to promote students‘ right to freedom from discrimination.”
How do we have these conversations in a way that is productive, respectful, and most importantly, equips students with essential skills for life beyond high school?
To answer this question, last year our faculty and students, in separate meetings, developed a near identical list of 4 values that we are committed to here at Newton South.
These are not rules, but guidelines that will help us navigate our conversations, statements, and actions. These phrases are posted throughout the school, and teachers will refer to them in their lessons. We will be working with each other to discover the many nuances of these four concepts, and to hold each other to these standards.
It is critical that we go toward difficult conversations rather than shying away from them. It’s even more important that we have the tools to ensure that our work together builds a stronger community. We believe that our four values are a good place to start.
Thank you for your support and involvement.