“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”
– Coretta Scott King
Last week, AAS held a series of events and activities as part of Inclusion Week. Inclusion can mean many things. For AAS the most important meaning is that the School is a place where everyone–students, families, staff, and guests–feels safe, welcomed, and respected for who they are. We all have our own beliefs, and that is as it should be. However, we agree that within the AAS community we will treat each other in a manner that makes everyone feel safe, welcomed, and respected. Sometimes this is easy to do, other times it is not as easy to do. It is a commitment that requires constant reflection and work.
Over the past weeks world events have made it challenging for everyone to feel safe, welcomed, and respected everywhere, including at AAS. The Hamas terror attack on Israel was horrifying. Any time innocent people are victims, it breaks my heart. The plight of the innocent people of Gaza also breaks my heart. These events and others from around the world (including well publicised hate crimes and disturbing social media images), have brought terrible incidents to the eyes of all of us, including our young ones, resulting in heartbreak, confusion, anger, fear.
While we cannot “solve” the conflicts of the world, we can build upon our efforts to be inclusive here: to help our community feel safe, welcomed, and respected. AAS has already taken steps to do that, and we will continue to do so.
You may have already noticed that we have increased security on campus, which is one way to help with feeling safe. Another way to help people feel safe is to provide opportunities to talk. Our Counsellors have reached out to students directly impacted, and they will continue to do so. They are also available to all students and community members who need to talk.
Part of our responsibility to help our young people grow into Global Citizens is to facilitate dialogue about events, especially events that are complex and difficult to talk about. We cannot know how it feels to be another person: their experiences, hopes, and worries. But when students learn to dialogue with each other, they better understand each other and are better able to work through conflicts, which contributes to the inclusive community we strive for. Most students, and at least many adults, don’t know how to talk about these emotional and complex topics. The word “ignorance” often has a negative connotation, but it simply means “a lack of knowledge or understanding”. We cannot have knowledge or understanding about something without direct experience, unless we talk about it. As people learn and grow, they make mistakes. In fact, mistakes are one of the most powerful ways to learn. It is likely that as people talk about difficult topics they will make mistakes out of a lack of experience or information. Through dialogue, they can increase their knowledge and understanding, which is essential for working together and understanding each other. There is a big difference between saying something that might be hurtful or offensive out of ignorance and doing so to intentionally be hurtful. We have no tolerance for hateful or intentionally hurtful words, and we need to see things said out of ignorance as an opportunity to learn and understand. If we model this for our children, maybe one day they will be the leaders who peacefully navigate the complexities of the world.
Talking with young people about conflicts and scary world events is difficult. If you need help with this, please contact us. Additionally, these resources can be helpful: International School Counselor Association Blog. When there are major events that are in the media it is important to ask your kids about what they may have heard or seen–for you to start the conversation: they may have been exposed to the events without you knowing, but won’t bring it up. Perhaps begin by asking, “Have you heard about…?”; “How do you feel…?”
One final thought: one way to help our young people (and ourselves) feel safe and navigate difficult times is to maintain normalcy as much as possible. As we head into the weekend, I hope that you enjoy some quality time (perhaps the AAS PTO Halloween party) with family and friends.
“When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it’s our job to share our calm, not join their chaos.”