In order to achieve a culture of reverence, mastery and creativity within which children can rise to their full potential, a healthy, engaging relationship between parents and teachers is vital. We are fortunate to enjoy a warm community of engaged parents and passionate teachers. We have parents willing to help out at School Info Talks, steering committees, the Board and a Parent-Teacher Association, and so on. We have teachers scheduling extra lessons after school, creating individualised learning processes, and constant access for discussing any concerns.
Nevertheless, there are moments when there is tension, inevitably, as there should be in a creative social institution. Agreed rules are necessary for the healthy functioning of any institution, as they achieve a sense of order and harmony. Although boundaries are uncomfortable and require effort, and some may even seem petty at times, the alternative — no rules — would create an uncomfortable culture based on whim and ego. Lofty values that necessitate sustained effort would be severely compromised: mastery, dedication, respect, patience, and so on, are difficult to work on as a community when the line of least resistance is the norm.
That we are a community means we impinge on each other. We endeavour to achieve and maintain the dynamic balance between home and school, and sometimes we succeed, and sometimes we don’t. It is vividly evident to teachers that practices at home affects the educational achievement of students in the classroom. It is often equally vivid to parents how practices in the classroom or playground may impact on the child’s behaviour, or language or attitudes at home. This is the rationale for our 2012 parents negotiating the guidelines currently delineated in our Parent’s Pack.
Our dress code, the school calendar, homework, the smoking policy, and online communication guidelines have all been discussed because they suit our collective objectives as a holistically-minded school and community, and yet impact us all differently. Choice of our extramurals, stationery guidelines, types of toys, and play-dates have been other areas where the home and school engage in a balance of cooperation and exploration.
Our students’ lunchboxes are an area of home-school cooperation whose support of parents we sincerely appreciate, especially since vegetarianism is clearly not the norm. A vegetarian school helps parents of all faiths and backgrounds feel comfortable. Kosher, halaal and vegetarian families can all safely enrol their children to Kairos without fear of them share and swap Haram meat with another child. Cultural diversity is a huge asset to our community, and we request this sacrifice for some in order to achievea dynamic, diverse and cooperative community.
For teachers, the use of electronic media in the home seems one of the most challenging areas where the school and home interact — some may say collide! By electronic media, I mean almost anything with a screen: television, computers, high-tech games such as X-box and Playstation, applications on a tablet of cell phone, etc. This digital 2D world has a profound impact on a child’s performance in the classroom, and yet the activity happens at home. Every family has their distinctive beliefs around the value and use of digital technology for children, and these beliefs influence the culture of the home. Some families will zone out for hours in front of the screens during the holidays, while others don’t even have a TV at home. Some homes have kindergarten age experts of smartphone applications, while others see Facebook and Whatsapp as invasive intrusions.
We at Kairos are particular conscious and curious at what impact electronic devices and the Internet might mean for educational best practice in the years ahead, and we are investigating options to take advantage of these. At the same time, we are also particularly conscious of their dangers. The addictive attraction of games and programmes and the dangerously convenient use of these tools for baby-sitting are vitally important to monitor. There are parallels between the problems of the monolithic mass-schooling system and the colonisation of online culture into our minds.
Electronic media are not the only cause of contemporary attention problems among children today. The fast-paced lifestyles of society in general, the ubiquitousness of convenience as a value in contemporary culture, the inability to allow children to play on their own in the street, and chemical ingredients such as MSG in our food are examples of other deep influences over children’s consciousness today, all distracting them from being their natural capacity for complete attentiveness and easy absorption in one activity at a time, as they used to be able to do. Nevertheless, the use of the electronic media is one of the few aspects of children’s lives which is possible for us to control.
We have endeavoured to be thoughtful and conscious about every rule and every boundary we ask of parents, because every rule has an educational or social implication in service of a value we hold dear. The impact of contravening these boundaries agreed upon by joining our school has an impact on the child concerned, because that child tends to be exposed unnecessarily in an uncomfortable way. We are well aware that contemporary life is pressured and stressful, and therefore we tend to be tolerant of and patience with parents who break our rules. However the impact on the child concerned is unmistakeable. And the contravention of a rule impacts the community, because it encourages emulation, and it communicates non-cooperation, however tacitly (although the innocent eloquence of our children occasionally exposes more than the parent probably intended!).
As our community grows, I hope to retain the cooperative culture in the parent-teacher partnership, a culture that allows direct, honest, open conversation over the issues of our community, within a context of mature support of our agreed boundaries and our grander goals — helping our children, and indeed ourselves, progress steadily to a deeper reverence, a more expressive creativity, and elegant mastery, in all that we do.