From the Principal’s Desk – 16 February 2017

Schools are places where memories are created. Unfortunately, many of these memories are not necessarily positive. To this day, I meet adults who have a very negative view of teachers and their years at school. The truth is that many children, for well over a century, in schools around the world, were subjected to punishment, harshness and classrooms where punitive ruling was the norm.  The point is that emotions are part and parcel of schools and memory is strongly associated with emotion.

So how do we use emotions as a powerful tool in today’s classroom?

I know that the word ‘love’ is easily overused and that the idea of the business world taking many recognised days and using them to boost productivity and sales for profit can be viewed as commercial. However, thinking educators can also tap into these moments to provide opportunities to grow and develop our students emotionally. Valentine’s Day should be all about love and while the focus is often on romantic love, it is also a chance to embed the concept of love and loving in all it’s different guises into a school in ways that really matter to change our schools for the whole community.

On the 14th February at ISH, we started off by setting out a special breakfast tea for the teachers and while we enjoyed sharing a muffin and conversation, we listened to love songs and poetry that was read to us. We heard the powerful words read from, ‘The Prophet’ by Kahil Gibran. Here is a sampling of words as they relate to the abstract concept of love.
‘… But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.’

You see, love for self and others starts with acknowledging the value of emotion and how we take the abstract idea of love and bring it to life through word, song and deed. We can spend time with our students exploring what love is capable of doing to us, how it changes us and what part it plays in our lives each and every day, why it is special and why it can also hurt us. When the leadership of organisations show that they value people and their emotions and educators opens themselves in ways where they feel comfortable to share their thoughts and feelings about emotions that bind, sustain and heal, we encourage and support the ‘drip-irrigation’ of that emotion, thought, feeling or understanding to filter down from one layer of a community to the next. Let’s imagine that as an emotion like love moves down towards our children in schools, it gathers force and gravitas along the way and when our students receive the gift of our sharing – and I believe for many adults, this requires courage – the impact is incredible because the emotion shared is collective and authentic.

An open conversation about love in all its forms, loving and caring for ourselves, carrying out a small act of kindness, caring for your pets, doing your work to the best of your ability, helping with chores around the house, phoning your gran or gramps to say hello, being a friend to a new student who arrives at the school, treating yourself with less criticism and loving your body by eating, resting and exercising properly are some of the many ways we can show love towards ourselves and towards other people.

It’s possible to build the culture of care, concern, dignity and respect through exploring emotions and in this instance, what love means in our school. It’s possible to build relationships and use the word love or language that surround the word love, when relationships are fractured and restoration is necessary. As international school working towards global-citizenship as a philosophical goal, it’s possible to place foundational thinking and conversations in place to build a better and more peaceful world when we introduce the word love into our conversations. So, use these commercial days in creative and robust ways to change the way your community thinks, speaks and acts and don’t let them slip by unnoticed or treat them one dimensionally. It’s amazing what you can achieve just on Valentine’s Day.

Yours in education
Garth Kitching
Head of School