I am grateful for the opportunities that bring us together as a community, for it is in community, working together as a School and parent body, with our conversations together, our shared purpose, consultation and collaboration, that we find the solutions to best care for your children. For this reason, at a recent parent function, I shared my perspective on some heavy stuff, as a concerned and very grateful Principal, and also from my perspective, as a dad who has seen my three teenagers navigate and try to make sense of the world they are growing up in.
If you did not attend the event, I shared an experience of my childhood. My mother would often describe me (and probably still does) as “a little bugga” and I fully understand why. I sometimes did things that I am sure mystified her. Like the time in Grade 2, for no reason at all, I ran up to a girl at school and whacked her hard on the bottom. Our scary Deputy Principal at the time (who every child feared), summoned me to his office and proceeded to hit me on the hand with his thick black rubber pipe, which he affectionately called his "licorice stick”. I recall that moment clearly and I remember my mother saying that afternoon “well you must have deserved it!”. My mother asked no further questions and she directed no accountability for my punishment towards the Deputy or School. Times have certainly changed with some parents in this day and age, challenging schools, without placing any responsibility on their child for his or her actions (or on their own parenting). “My child would never be a do that!” one might say, and if a consequence is put in place, the school is unfairly criticised.
As we work together in a spirit of trust and respect, there is a healthy middle-ground.
With children growing up in a new world filled with new issues and concepts to those we experienced as children, and a very different to the world our mothers and fathers, we must work closely together. Take a child’s easy access to pornography for example. How necessary is it for both parents and the school to work together to help our children navigate this ugly territory? It both saddens and maddens me that psychologists and schools must now deal with a disorder termed ‘pre-adolescent porn addiction’. The majority of children aged 10, will have looked at explicit porn. My experience when working with these children who feel that they have done the wrong thing, is that they clam up and don’t say anything to their teacher or mum or dad. If it’s a group of children who have done the wrong thing there may be a code of silence, or they all point the finger of blame in different directions. It is easy for kids to live with the guilt and shame of their actions, often without telling a soul, way into adulthood. We must carefully balance the issues of debriefing, resolution, consequence, learning from mistakes, and knowing what is appropriate for the future. If we don’t do this well together, a child or young person’s mental health is certainly at risk.
How do we do this? The School and parents must work together in partnership. We certainly don’t blame or attack, should a child make a mistake. If we just ‘punish’ then our children will never come to us for help. As children get older, the challenges they will face will only become more difficult and complex. With children’s forms of social media thrown into the mix, it’s a foreign language for all of us adults.
It takes a community to support a child and it takes a community to support mum and dad. It takes great mums and dads to support a school. We are in this together, and on behalf of my entire staff team who work so tirelessly for your children, I offer you my sincere thanks, for working together with us to support your children.
Thanks @timmarshall for the fantastic image.