As some of you may be aware, there was a recent incident at the Urbandale Middle School that directly impacted the lives of two students and their families. One student chose to post hurtful and tactless messages on another student’s locker. The messages attacked the student based on his ethnicity. I have chosen to address this in my blog this week as I both personally and professionally believe that the offending student’s actions were wrong, misguided, and damaging. Actions were taken at UMS to address this incident. But I know that even though the appropriate and approved actions were taken, it still leaves us with questions: the most prominent being why this student chose to take such hurtful actions.
I have given this a lot of thought over the past several days. Reflecting on what took place and trying to do my best to empathize with the student that had this happen to him and with his family. Although I can relate to having been hurt in my lifetime, I know I can’t fully know what it must have felt like, nor what it continues to feel like. The most I can do is empathize with genuine heartfelt emotion for this student and his family.
The offending student’s actions directly contradict several of the Values that the Urbandale district not only adheres to but fundamentally believes. These values guide everything we do throughout our day – they are not merely words on paper or a framed print on a wall – they are at the core, the essence, of what we as educators believe in for creating meaningful learning environments.
As a district, we value…
• innovation through continual improvement.
• joy in meaningful lifelong learning.
• a collaborative culture.
• safe and caring schools.
• a consistent, rigorous, and relevant curriculum.
• a committed, passionate workforce.
• strong partnerships with all stakeholders.
• the optimization of resources.
• trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship.
These are the Values that guide our actions on a daily basis. These are the values that we strive to instill in our students. These are the values that are non-negotiable. When someone in our district takes action that contradicts these values, we notice. We feel it. We address it.
We also do something else. We reflect upon it in order to better understand what we are to learn from it so we can then help others to also learn and grow. The offending student has much to learn in developing compassionate and respectful relationships. It is our job as teachers, principals, superintendents, parents, and the community to help guide this learning.
You see, this pivotal moment doesn’t end with messages on a locker. It begins with messages on a locker, but it’s the conversations that follow such an incident that are so critical for change to take place. These are the conversations that are taking place right now. Although often times they are hard and challenging, they are also the most worthwhile and life-changing conversations that are fundamental for improvement.
A path is only a path if we choose to stay on it. When we learn of a new path and are guided toward it by those that care and know better, our path can change. I am reminded of these meaningful and wise words from Maya Angelou, “When you know better, you do better” and am encouraged that this moment in the offending student’s life will be one that he can choose to learn from and do better.
We value safe and caring schools. We value trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship. These values are non-negotiable.