The goal of any school should be to produce good students. At Beechwood, we want to go beyond that and endeavor to produce good people as well. The qualities of a good person can be referred to as “values”. At our upper grade assemblies this year, we have been emphasizing a new value each week. I wanted to share some of those with you today.
First, is the value of sincerity. When we say something do we really mean it? If we do, we are being sincere. It can be diffi cult for young people to be sincere because they are afraid of how others will perceive them if they display this quality. Our society sometimes promotes sarcasm and negativity over sincerity. At Beechwood and in our homes, we want kids to know that it is OK to say things like, “I love you” or “You are a really good teacher” without feeling embarrassed or self-conscious.
Secondly, we emphasized to the students the value of empathy. One of the characteristics that sets humans apart from other animals is our ability to feel what others are feeling. When we see a child at Beechwood sit with a sad, sick or hurt friend in the offi ce, we feel pride because that child is exhibiting empathy. It is important for adults to model empathy on a regular basis by saying things like “You seem really sad about that” or “I can see that you are having a hard time”.
Another important quality is that of being present. When we are with someone, are we really “with” them or are we detached and distracted? This is not a strength for me, so I am setting a personal goal to do better in this regard. When I am with my wife or children, I am not going to check my Blackberry or think about work. Instead I will focus on listening, paying attention and enjoying the moment.
We are also reminding our students about the importance of gratitude. Parents can model this by encouraging their children to write thank you notes when they receive gifts. I have been so pleased to see that our students have remembered to show appreciation to others without being prompted. Our kids do a great job with this but sometimes they still need to be reminded to say “thank you”.
Last week we added our fifth value, patience. Is there any more important value for a teacher or parent to have? Probably not. The fact of the matter is, that young people can be difficult to deal with. They make mistakes. They are sometimes insensitive. They are occasionally loud and obnoxious. It is up to us as adults to show them what it means to be patient. It can take a long time for our children to show the kind of maturity that we want so badly for them to show. “How long will it take?”, we ask. Unfortunately, the answer is not known and so, we must wait patiently until our children grow into responsible adults.
It is important to remember that these positive characteristics exist inside all people. The environment that we create for our youngsters, in our schools and in our homes, determines whether these good qualities will be displayed or whether they will remain hidden. Our children our watching us. Let’s all try to be the best we can be, for the sake of the next generation.