Healthy Relationships Build Effective Communities
As our new strategic initiatives begin to take shape, our Middle School focus has turned to citizenship. We must begin by working from a common baseline and by examining the responsibilities we have to the communities in which we live.
It was in this vein that Middle School faculty recently shared their thoughts on what it means to be part of a community and a good citizen. Faculty collaborated as teams, designing advisory activities intended to help our young adolescents grasp the concept of community and what responsibilities lie therein as citizens.
As I reflected on the questions posed and responses generated, my thoughts turned to one of Middle School’s guiding documents, our RavenWay Citizenship Guide (the other being our Honor Code). Our mission’s emphasis on a “legacy of excellence” is exemplified in the RavenWay Citizenship Guide, as it was produced by the same group of young people who were the impetus for our School’s values and Character Tree.
Later, as Upper School citizens, they fondly remembered the impact and value of this document, which was originally called the RICE Guide (RICE representing respect, inclusion, compassion, and empathy). They recalled student leaders and teachers giving out “RICE stickers,” which, believe it or not, our Middle School students wore throughout the day! Our School values have since been revised, and we now hand out leaves that hang on our Character Tree instead of stickers. But the emphasis is the same: we recognize students who demonstrate good citizenship by upholding the values of our community.
Young people need to begin an exploration of citizenship in the closest communities in which they live, such as family, school, and service or religious organizations. Once students grasp the responsibilities they have to the whole ─ to other members of these local communities ─ they can begin to understand what citizenship means in the context of a broader world of national and global communities.
Conversations with our Middle School students about their roles and responsibilities in a community’s citizenry begin with how they treat each other ─ how to create and maintain healthy relationships that have a balance of power or control. It is crucial that we help our children see that not having such balance can lead to unhealthy situations, which may result in a lack of respect or tolerance, bullying, or harassment. Raising awareness is an initial step in working with young adolescents. It is only then that can we expect them to process and reflect, individualizing and formulating how topics addressed relate to them. Having gone through this process, they then can be empowered to take action.
During the next several weeks in advisory, we will explore our responsibilities to others and our roles in developing healthy relationships that form effective communities. Our goal is for students to learn the importance of making good choices, including an understanding of how those choices impact others, whether one person or an entire community. We aspire for all Ravenscroft students to gain the courage to stand up for something or someone, not for their own benefit but for the greater good, as their part of an active and engaged citizenry ─ locally, nationally, and, globally. Ask your child to share what makes a healthy relationship or what it means to be part of a community ─ you may be surprised to hear what they share.