Behaving ourselves…

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From time to time I have people express the view that Preshil fails to impose rules and proper discipline, that our students are allowed to do as they like, wear what they like, call the teachers by their first names… where will it end?


In fact, there is a good case to argue that Preshil requires much more from our students than an environment which is strictly controlled by a swathe of rules, one which sets out to rigorously control all aspects of behaviour, appearance and interactions.


The most ‘disciplined and rigorous’ schools, those which demand immediate and unquestioned obedience, actually require minimal choice or thought. Just do as you’re told and you’ll be fine…


Misdemeanors, lapses, failures to obey; all are quickly dealt with according to the prescribed sanctions in a one-size-fits-all view of justice. Come late, answer back, fail to complete homework, speak out of turn, wear the wrong garment (or the right garment incorrectly) and the selected punishment is applied; simple and efficient. Conform, defer, obey, comply.


These systems of rules and punishments serve to bolster hierarchies and authoritarian structures. Unwritten rules, such as ‘No Dobbing’, preserve the pecking order and prevent individuals from speaking up, enshrining a system where bullying is tolerated, rather than breaking ranks across the ‘them and us’ divide between teachers and students.


Young people who come through such systems and have been rigorously trained to depend on external authority in order to regulate their behaviour may never become fully autonomous adults. They may never recognise that they are not able to set their own ethical standards or assess their own actions in the light of their personal set of beliefs.


These adults are reliant on the laws, the church or even peer pressure and popular opinion to tell them how to shape and justify their behaviour. They are ripe fodder for the tribalism of social media, corporate subordination or media manipulation.


‘There’s no law against it’ pretty much sums up this stance, with echoes of ‘Who’s going to know, anyway’ or the inability to take responsibility in the common justifications of ‘Just doing my job, just carrying out orders’. Examples abound in the wider community, where relying on those with authority to set and enforce the rules becomes catastrophic when those in charge are no longer trustworthy. Anyone need some cheap cladding for their home?


Preshil’s Behaviour Management Policy
Preshil’s underlying approach to managing student behaviour is based on the expectation of active, mutual respect for all. Our students and teachers are expected to demonstrate their respect for themselves and for each other. Lapses of respectful behaviour and differences between individuals or groups are resolved using a restorative approach, which aims to “set things right”.


Our Mission Statement
At our core remains an unshakeable commitment to encouraging all children to progress at their own pace towards their own goals and to be respected as individuals in their own right; a commitment to our children to be nurtured and challenged in an atmosphere that inspires creativity and independent thinking in all areas of life and does not, overtly or subtly, use competition or punishment to motivate through the fear of failure.


As global citizens we encourage an awareness of world issues and encourage effort to make a positive difference. We believe that education should prepare students to be thoughtful, peace-loving and active citizens of the world. Preshil will remain a school that puts kindness, compassion and social relationships at the centre of its operations.


Aligned with the International Baccalaureate, our classes are based on ‘Essential Agreements’ where everyone has the opportunity to shape and modify the boundaries and expectations they will aspire to – and sometimes achieve.


We reject group punishment, accept that all behaviour has meaning and that individuals have very different challenges, dispositions and circumstances.


For many students who transfer from schools where discipline and punishment are applied with military precision, where authority is absolute, the demands of taking responsibility, managing choices, confronting natural consequences and shouldering the burden of moral agency can be very challenging indeed.


Luckily, at Preshil, they will meet a team of adults who can model, support and challenge them, each one in their own imperfect way, to becoming autonomous individuals, who can make their own independent, ethical decisions with the courage to question the future society they will create.
Marilyn Smith

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