Over the summer, we let the ball drop.
We have spent the past three (really? has it been three?) years working with the kids in our afterschool program in the context of the Josephson Institute’s CHARACTER COUNTS program. At times using curriculum from the Instititute, and most of the time crafting our own relatable curriculum around the six pillars (Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, and Citizenship), we’ve spent a fair amount of time engaging the children in the meaning and import of these abstract ideas.
Then, for some reason… call it laziness, failure to plan, summer overwhelm, whatever… we stopped talking about the pillars this past summer. And guess what? The ideas and behaviors that had become a daily “given” at the site (older kids helping younger, sharing, and a sense of community) simply fell out of existence.
The beautiful thing is, now that the school year is underway, and we’re back to a more normalized (ritualized) schedule, the pillars have once again become part of the conversation. We opened with our first “Word of the Week” (WOW) and we chose the one word that sums up what it is we’re up to as a group: COMMUNITY.
Lo, and behold- as if a magic switch were flipped, the kids are back in the swing of things.
Or, I should say, the kids are back in the conversation.
Not a casual, one-on-one conversation, but the conversation.
The conversation is made up of all the hundreds (if not thousands) of smaller daily words, actions, and conversations between the teachers and kids (and the teachers and teachers and the kids and kids as well).
I once took a course that tantalizingly held out the maxim that “the only way to transform an organization, is to raise the level of the conversation.” When we talk with kids and keep them in THE CONVERSATION, we keep our community in existence. Instead of looking to find ways to make children “behave”, perhaps we should be looking for ways to raise the conversation.