For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working at my parents’ private school running their Grades 6-8 summer school session. I’ve worked with them every summer since I was in high school, and I just finished my eleventh year of teaching. Needless to say, it’s been a while. One thing that I notice every year though is how the students interact with each other on the playground during recess time. It always has me stop and think.
Every child accepts everyone else. There’s never any arguments. Students never come up and tell me that someone won’t let them play, or that someone is being mean to them. I don’t hear any complaints about bullying. Instead I see all students letting all other students join their games. I see high school students — even those in Grade 11 – inviting younger, elementary students to play basketball with them, join their soccer game, or help them with their DS game. Regardless of age or interests, all students are welcome and all students belong.
How does this happen? Here it begins with this simple premise: if someone asks another child to play, the answer is always, “yes.” Creating this safe environment where all students know that they can have friends, makes for a positive environment for everyone. Yes, all teachers reinforce the importance of including everyone, but by almost teaching this rule to others, students start to do it naturally too. Just seeing the students being so kind to each other makes me smile every day that I go to work.
As the summer school session comes to an end, I can’t help but wonder if this same environment could exist in all other schools as well. What would it take to eliminate all friendship issues and bullying problems? Could it really happen with just “letting everyone play?” I’d love to hear what you think about this!