Freedom with responsibility

“Freedom with responsibility” is one of our school’s core values, instilling independence, accountability, and resilience.  Children learn that they have choices in how they act and learn, and they learn by making mistakes.

What happens when a child makes an inappropriate choice, or behaves irresponsibly? Learning from mistakes is an ongoing process. In Primary, it may be a matter of repeating the activity until it is handled appropriately; in Elementary, it may be a loss of privilege and then the challenge to earn it back.

We also use peer mediation, facilitated by teachers, to help children learn how they could have handled a situation differently. We help the children develop the language to convey their feelings more appropriately and effectively. Should a child’s ongoing misbehavior, either verbal or physical, require my assistance, a child may have to come to my office. I use a philosophy of restorative justice. I want more than just, “I’m sorry.” I want the child to recognize how his or her behavior impacts others, and consider what might be done to restore a friendship or the safety of the classroom. The child will be asked to write down what happened, and a letter will come home for parents to sign and discuss. If there is a next time, the child and parents will come to my office. I tell the children, “I can’t change your behavior. Only you can.”

Parents are important role models. Children hear and see everything. How you talk to other adults—and what you say about other people—is closely observed by your child. If you aren’t following rules, your child won’t either. If your child is experiencing difficulty, he or she will look to you for cues about how to handle the problem.

Should your child come home from school and say that the teacher yelled at him or her, or complain about doing some activity, how should you respond? Not everything that goes on in school can be easy or fun, and that’s part of what helps a child develop resilience. We want to help the child learn to be open to new and different things, even when it doesn’t feel comfortable. So as a parent, please listen; talk it out; find out what happened. Make sure your child is heard. But please do not take sides. Instead, come back to the teachers to discuss whatever the underlying issues might be. Come to us respectfully, so that we can work together.

At MMS, we think very carefully about our policies and our curriculum. We welcome conversation so that we can work together and give your child the opportunity to develop the skills and attitudes needed for success in today’s world.