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Step Away from the Bulletin Board Display: The Importance of Asking Why We Do What We Do

Today Inquiring Minds brings you a post from Richland’s Director of Community Life, Mrs. Laura Murgatroyd…

Recently I was at a Professional Development workshop for a character building program.  The group was a collection of hardworking and dedicated educators, all hoping to glean a way to create community and develop positive attitudes within their own settings. I was there, not because I necessarily felt this was an area that we needed to develop at Richland, but because I thought maybe there’s something we can do better.Early on in the workshop it became quite apparent to me that as a school we were in a much different place.  Our character development isn’t dependent on a program, complete with activities and incentives; it’s embedded in our culture and in our vocabulary.  We acknowledge when our students demonstrate behaviour that is positive, empathetic, courageous.  We also hold them to the standards and expectations that we treat ourselves and one another with respect, we cooperate, and we will be of service.  Faculty and Staff take the time to work democratically with students and it shows in the demeanor and attitudes of our pupils

As I sat there surrounded by educators in great need of ‘solutions’ for their schools that would “make it easy for staff” to empower students to lead by example and develop confidence.  What prizes to hand out?  How many points?  These were the sorts of questions being asked.  Focusing on external motivation rather than intrinsic motivation seemed to go virtually unnoticed. I was reminded of how fortunate we are to have a community that values the same things, and keeps these values as a priority.  This isn’t by accident; it’s by focusing on what is meaningful and impactful for our young students.  It is also by questioning the purpose of what we do and why we do it ~ our Reggio-inspired inquiry approach has developed these traits in all of us, and it permeates the decisions we make. When the workshop leaders pulled out bags complete with ready-made neon banners, hearts and stars; and gave us the task to make a bulletin board display in order to impart the values of the program – the other educators weren’t questioning why they were doing this, or how this would actually be purposeful.  I felt quite alone in that moment when I found myself saying that a bulletin board doesn’t resonate with people, what’s actually needed is engagement.  It was polite smiles in my direction and then back to creating the display.  At that moment I backed away from the task, and took a little walk outside amidst the tall pines, because I wanted to connect with something that was authentic.  I’m certain my fellow educators walked away from the workshop with what they believe they needed.  I walked away knowing we had it all along.

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