The Coronavirus is consuming everybody’s attention. But not all safety is about emergency
management. As Neev grows, some recent incidents force us to reflect on our community’s
shared understanding of physical, digital and emotional safety. The incidents are diverse – in learning journeys, sports fields, play areas, restrooms, classrooms, at events in or out of school and at home. Some are inevitable. Getting scraped up during play and even broken bones for instance. Teasing can also be an important part of relationships besides ‘preparation for life’. But there are limits. Can we differentiate the inevitable from the avoidable? Can we collectively own norms that create a safe and disciplined environment before emergencies? I’d like to propose we consider 4 forces as a community:

1) Group Behaviour: We often do or say things in a crowd that we wouldn’t dream of doing individually. Herd mentality is when people adopt similar behaviours as the people around them — often ignoring their own deeper thoughts. From watching a particular show to breaking limits, to excluding a peer to bullying as a group to talking when we should be
listening, thinking or working, are all often examples of herd mentality. Sometimes an individual chooses to not join in but still does not call it out. The ‘bystander effect’ is easy to understand because of the fear of standing out. But can vicious cycles of bad behaviour be turned into virtuous cycles of good behaviour?

2) Disrespect for Rules: What happens when people assume safety standards and guidelines don’t need to be followed? Imagine individuals in a group breaking rules in different ways; the result can be messy at best and risky at worst. Only institutions with the freedom to exercise intellect and creativity within a collectively disciplined group, in productive ways, leads to real innovation. None of us is capable of what all of us are capable of together. A vital 21st century skill is working in groups. And groups need rules.

3) Discipline as Values: No list of Do’s and Don’ts can cover every eventuality; a sustainable code-of-conduct comes from values. An intrinsic code of conduct that our most effective citizens demonstrate consistently in their work, in interactions and relationships, with digital citizenship and emotional safety for themselves and others. These are behaviours rising from an inbuilt value system, from knowing that norms have greater impact than rules when reflected upon. Trust relies on each individual upholding not just the norms but the underlying shared values.

4) Collective Responsibility: Accidents can and will happen they must be anticipated and learnt from. But a positive school climate with a strong sense of belonging and ownership avoids accidents with the collective responsibility of all stakeholders – children, staff and parents. Last week our PYP exhibition raised many questions that exist in our children’s
worlds, overconsumption, well-being, valuing the environment and all life-forms, inclusiveness, and more. The MYP personal project exhibition a month ago represented the maturity of a few years but was similar. This generation talks-the-talks of
impact and change more than we did. Are we willing to help them walk-the-talk by taking collective responsibility for discipline, and shared values?

As we build shared norms, some of the questions we are attempting to answer are:

  • Is there a difference between Academic Honesty and Discipline?
  • Are extrinsic motivators for discipline good or bad?
  • Who owns bullying? Teachers, parents or children?
  • Should all areas be safe by design or by staff supervision only?
  • Can we shift the responsibility for negative behaviour from who to why?
  • What can we do about the influence of disruptive behaviour on media or in life?
  • Do people behave differently when supervised and not?
  • What guides behaviour?

As entrepreneur Joseph Sugarman said, “Each problem has hidden in it an opportunity so powerful that it literally dwarfs the problem. The greatest success stories were created by people who recognized a problem and turned it into an opportunity.” I am hoping the Neev community can break cultural and other stereotypes together, recognise the power of institutions and discipline, and truly imagine new worlds with creativity and imagination. I welcome your thoughts.

Of course, reading and reflection is fundamental to this journey. Have you read a book this week and thought about it?

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