Utopian or reality?

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!



6 thoughts on “Utopian or reality?

  1. Hmmmm…I wonder if it could truly be just that simple…the premise and explicit instruction that ” everyone plays?” Sometimes we overlook the obvious, don’t we? I’ll definitely be adding this concept to my citizenship instruction when we get back to school in September!

  2. It would be nice if it was that simple. I would have thought the results would be different since the kids could be swimming or walking the bay or climbing the mountain or hanging at the mall. Instead they’re in school.

    So, what’s the difference?

    Is it because the school is aware of this and goes out of its way to make it attractive? Is it because the parents are so concerned about education that they’re supportive of their education? Is it because the students that would have otherwise been a challenge are not there? Is it because traditional school is so focussed on results that the fact that these are kids and not little learning robots?

    Regardless, of why, it could serve as a point of introspection. How could traditional school morph itself so that the same enthusiasm and success is realized there?

    • Doug, thanks for your comment! Your questions have me thinking as much as the results. The funny thing is that this school caters to students that have not been successful in other schools. Many of the students have a variety of learning needs, and yet, in this environment, they meet with academic and social success.

      The amazing part is that the summer school program includes those students that go to my parents’ private school all year long as well as students from a variety of other public and private schools. Despite the mixing of students, this social interaction between students remains the same as what my parents see all year long. Why is that? I wish I knew. What a wonderful environment to be able to copy at other schools as well.


  3. Aviva, sadly I don’t think we are ever going to eliminate ALL of these problems – unfortunately I think some of it just comes from being human. I do believe that we could eliminate MOST of them, however, if our primary teachers (think pre-K, K, 1 and 2) were able to take the focus off of assessment and put the focus on helping our kids develop their people skills.

    I have never plugged my own blog post in a comment before, but this is a subject near and dear. Since I had so much to say I wrote about it here:


    It strongly believe that if we made our students human beings first and test-takers second, that we may see this utopia… or close to it!

    • Thanks for your comment, Becky! I’m glad that you included this blog post link. I am definitely not one for a focus on test-taking, but I do believe in the value of academics and assessment. I would like to think that through inquiry-based learning and small group teaching, we can develop these social skills while still focusing on curriculum. Maybe I’m the one that’s envisioning a utopia though. What do you think?


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