In recent years, we have done a lot of hand-wringing in the world of education about violence prevention and mental health. We are glued to our TV’s when we hear of another school shooting. We shudder when we hear stories of children who are so tormented by bullying that they choose suicide. So we spend a lot of time doing all that we can think of to ensure that those things don’t happen in our own schools.
We keep schools and classrooms locked up tight.
We practice intruder drills.
We refer students that we are concerned about to the guidance counsellor.
We advocate for increased resources in the mental health system.
These may well be useful things to do, but, honestly, I think they sometimes detract from what is really important. By the time an intruder is in the building, or a child is depressed, we’ve missed an opportunity. It’s like focusing on insulin injections as your primary way of managing the diabetes epidemic, and never talking about exercise and eating a healthy diet. We put a lot of resources into treating serious problems, and rightly so. However, I worry that we spend so much time and money on the “big” things, that we don’t always recognize the power of the little things that could prevent the big things in the first place.
It’s these every day little interactions that truly make the difference:
Does every child in your classroom know that you care about them, and that they are missed when they are not there?
Do students feel that they are important, or do they feel some people have greater value than others?
Do you demonstrate a concern for others’ perspectives, or does only your opinion matter because of your position of authority?
What do you teach your students about how to resolve conflict?
What do you model about the way to treat people that you disagree with or don’t like?
What do you do when you witness someone being cruel to another person?
Don’t underestimate the power that you have in changing the direction of someone’s life. You may never know how differently things would have turned out if you had not shown that bit of kindness and concern for another person, but the world can only become a better place because of it.