The Web of Respect

Cross posted from Josie’s Blog

It was the spider started it.

A noiseless, patient, useful spider had spun a tremendous web right there in the playground, across the chains of the swing.

It was Sue Parise’s class that noticed it and made the sign that said: “This swing is closed because of BIG spider!”

Lynn Fordin took the photo and Bill Fiore told the story in the lower school assembly. And everyone sang.

If you go into Debby Mclean’s office you’d see a sign and sets of drawings.

Debby has been visiting each class to explore the theme of respect and what it means, for each child, each class and the whole community. It’s how meaning is built – patiently and attentively listening to children, exploring ideas and connecting each child to the community.

Each class in the lower school is building an understanding of respect and taking on a community responsibility – putting away the trikes after recess for example, or making sure the “Before” classroom is tidy and ready for the “After” children. It’s all a process of course. Respect is not something that can be imposed. It has to come from within.

And of course, the only sure way to teach respect to children is to treat them that way.

This is not laying down the law and imposing rules. This is a bringing forward an understanding of social responsibility and a set of intentions. It’s education – not something done to you, but a process of creation and drawing forth.

The respect begins with the self, extends to others close by and then to a wider world. It’s all a process, and the work is never done. Children are not automatons, and learning for the individual and the group is all about stumbling and making mistakes.

I like to think that protecting that spider’s effort was a piece of that web of respect.

Here are children in science last week learning about the monarch butterfly.

These monarchs are tagged and may be tracked on their amazing journey south to Mexico.

And the respect comes with how they are handled and their care and feeding. There are buddleia, asters and milk weed on site. Science teacher Emma Sears and her students created an official butterfly way station on the corner of the property a few years ago.

Now children can show respect by making sure the monarchs are fed for their amazing journey ahead. And the respect begins with the teacher’s regard for the children – their minds and capacities to learn.

Whitman’s poem is not about building the web of respect within a community but it is about individual questing, venturing, courage, patience, perseverance and connection.

That’s a pretty ambitious list for any spider, or school.


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