On August 29, 2013 Seekonk high School welcomed the incoming class of 2017 with their Freshmen and new Student Orientation. This well attended night was full of workshops for both parents and students. What struck me as I was leading my session titled “A Parent’s Guide to Knowing the Handbook” is how irrelevant the “rules” portion of the handbook is to families. Therefore, I structured the session to focus on the four areas many students struggle with: Character, Involvement, Communication, and Awareness.
Let me explain:
1. I opened by discussing the various sections of the handbook. I spent some time touching on new policies and the calendar, but mostly on the very last…ironically buried at the back of the book. It is a section called “Destination Character.” It states, “Your character isn’t just something your born with; it’s how you choose to act.” It then gives thirty positive character traits and how to develop them. Think on that for a second…
2. I then discussed Seekonk High School’s Statement of Respect: Earn It; Give It; Live It. I combined this with a discussion of everyone’s (students, teachers, administrators, and parents) rights and responsibilities in the student’s education.
3. Finally, I discussed a handout that addressed involvement, communication, and awareness. I encouraged parents to get not only their students, but themselves involved as well. Stressing appropriate levels so as not to overload anyone, I informed the parents that communication is much easier when they are involved. Lastly, I reminded the parents that all teenagers need supervision and that they need to be aware of friends and typical versus non typical behavior.
As this unfolded, I realized (and actually said to two of the groups) that if any student practices these skills, they will be successful throughout and well beyond high school no matter the path they choose.
The point is:
We should concern ourselves with not getting tied up in policies, rules, and regulations. Leave that to the state as they implement more mandates. Rather, our focus should be on what really matters; developing students into individuals who are capable of being productive citizens through their contributions to a civil society. We all talk about this a lot, but how many of us actually do the hard work of reflecting upon those small actions that add up. Next time you lead a meeting, correct a behavior, or even engage in what is meant to be a meaningful conversation are you:
· talking about how to increase positive character traits
· increasing people’s desire to be appropriately involved
· stressing the importance of positive communication
· increasing individuals awareness that more focus on these points lessens issue that arise due to rules and regulations
Try it. I know my next brochure and set of handouts will have a different focus than this years (included below). It is not easy because it is new, but at the same time empowering. By focusing on character, we will need fewer restrictions because we will be strengthening our culture.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” -Aristotle