Research: Educator and author Tim Lucas argues that one of the most important ways to connect with students is to engage them through their dignity. Schools in general have become places where children’s dignity is constantly tested. It occurs in overt ways like peer bullying, but also in more subtle ways like the labeling of some students as lazy, disorganized, or dumb; grading systems that highlight weakness; and the failure to recognize individual needs in learning. But as Lucas argues, “Only students with a strong sense of their own dignity can grow up to be adults who can take risks, handle failures, and act to protect other people’s dignity.”
Practice: Many of our students have experienced a loss of dignity at some point in their school experience. We work to combat any damage that’s been done by re-framing the school environment from one that’s based in competition and rank to one that focuses on collaboration and community. We encourage positive behaviors at school by modeling them ourselves and encouraging positive relationships with students and one another. Our staff guide conversations, initiate discussions about the importance of respect when needed, and demonstrate empathy. We’ve seen amazing transformations as a result!