Superintendent DeLai Encourages Parents To Be ‘Kindness’ Role Models To Their Children

WILMINGTON, MA —Superintendent of Schools Mary DeLai has called on parents to be role models for their children in the area of kindness and respect. DeLai also asked parents to (1) talk to their children about bullying in October (National Bullying Prevention Month) and (2) encourage their children to perform at least one act of kindness each week.

Superintendent DeLai posted the following on her blog yesterday:

In last week’s blog post, I revealed the four core values that had received the highest score based on our recent survey results.  The core value that received the highest number of votes was respect.  I was certainly pleased to see that our community believes that respect is the most important value for us to live by – our students, our staff, our families, our school community, and our residents.  This is so relevant as we head into October which is designated National Bullying Prevention Month.  We all know that the key to preventing bullying is to teach and promote kindness and respect.

All of our schools will be engaged in activities next month as part of this important national effort to stop bullying.  While it is important to have traditions like National Bullying Prevention Month, obviously we need to work hard to prevent bulling every day of every month, not just October.  I have acknowledged and will continue to acknowledge that we have work to do here in our school district in this area.  While we have had a strong bullying prevention and intervention plan in place for several years and a district-wide School Climate and Culture committee that helps to promote positive school climate, we lack a cohesive K-12 social and emotional learning curriculum in our district.  The key to promoting safe and supportive school environments and positive student relationships is to help students “develop the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.” (CASEL, http://www.casel.org/social-and-emotional-learning)

To be clear, our teachers spend a good deal of time developing students’ abilities in this area and promote and reinforce positive behaviors in their classrooms and schools.  They have done yeoman’s work to incorporate lessons and activities on social emotional learning despite the lack of a comprehensive curriculum.  Currently, our Behavioral Health Task Force is working hard to research, evaluate, and identify social emotional learning curricula to implement in our district and to evaluate the effectiveness of the current program that is used in Grades 4 through 8, Second Step.  Our goal is to begin to at least pilot a new program by next year.

While we are doing our best to equip your children with these essential social and emotional skills and abilities, we need our parents and school community members to do to same.  Nothing is more effective than a child watching his or her parents and family members modelling kindness and respect.  And nothing can undo what we try so hard to instill as quickly as parents acting in an unkind or disrespectful manner.

Over the past few weeks, I have been saddened by some of the behaviors that I have seen or heard about.  From parents sending unkind text messages perpetuating false rumors about students or other parents, to disrespectful and hurtful postings on social media, these behaviors are inconsistent with the core values that we espouse to.  They send a message to students that the way to handle conflict is by making disparaging remarks about another human being.  In the past year, I have been yelled at, hung up on, sworn at, and threatened.  I know that not all parents or members of the community are always going to agree with the decisions that we make.  However, if we are truly going to say that respect is the value that guides our actions and behaviors, then let’s prove it!

Before you send that nasty text or post that unkind message on your Facebook page, stop and ask yourself:  Is this what I would want my child to be doing?  Ask yourself this question as you “flip the bird” to that driver who accidentally cuts you off at the intersection.  Ask yourself this question before you pick up the phone and yell at your child’s teacher because of something that may or may not have actually occurred.  We have a saying around here, “assume positive intent.”

So today, I challenge each of us to reflect on what it means to show kindness and respect.  For the month of October, we ask that you talk to your child about bullying.  Let them know that bullying is unacceptable.  Challenge them to engage in an act of kindness at least once a week during the month of October.  Teach them not to be a bystander.  Most of all, model kindness and respect for our children.  Your actions as a parent are far more credible and impactful than anything we as educators can say or do.  We need your help, now more than ever.

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