Oct 7, 2009

Social Inclusion? Let the Kids Teach Us

There's lots of buzz at our school about social inclusion. Making sure all kids feel safe and included, free from bullying and part of the magic.

Yesterday after school I was reminded that we often forget or underestimate the goodness and wisdom of children. The kids know social inclusion. They know how to be good to each other, probably better than we grown-ups do. Maybe we just have to help them remember sometimes.

What happened was that Galen, fuelled by a courage that just exceeded his anxiety, pedaled his BMX up to where some kids were doing bike jumps. The group ranged from grade 1-7, with a few grade 7's who were running the show. That my grade 2 boy could approach this pack of older kids is already a testimony to the basic level of safety he feels at the school, as well as to his own immense courage. How many times do we parents shy away from joining into a conversation in the parking lot?

The way Galen was received was magical. No-one made a big deal, a special welcome as we adults would have done. They just incorporated him into the play, let him have his turn, and genuinely praised his good jumps and gently laughed at the bad ones. "Niiiiiiice, dude!" was ringing in his ears and beaming out of his suppressed smile after the first jump. He was in.

Charlie, the grade 7 ringleader, organized a competition. There were beginner, intermediate and expert jumps so that everyone could be part of it, and the adjudication of who made the best jump was done much better by the panel of kids than by any Olympic judges. As the sideline parent I was probably the only one who really cared if Galen won - the "comp" was all in fun and everyone enjoyed it.

I called Charlie over afterwards to tell him how cool he is, how I really respected the way he made sure everyone was part of the fun. If that's the way our school is shaping our kids, then I feel safe and confident with our boys in this system.

Do we need to address social inclusion in our school? Absolutely. Let's just remember that the children may be our best teachers for how to make it work. And let's remember the lesson that Charlie and those kids taught me: to start from a base of appreciation and respect. We're not trying to curb the base natures of our beastly children; we're trying to nurture and celebrate the innate goodness that our children - all children - are born with.

When the goodness of children becomes the pervading culture of our school and our society, we'll have finally learned our lesson.

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