Friday, November 8, 2013

The Internal School Dynamic

A few days ago, one of the students at the school sent me a series of questions as part of a project that he is doing about the students and staff at SJI International. The questions were perceptive, and they made me wonder how others at the school might answer them. Allow me to share three of the questions along with my answers, which I have slightly expanded on here, and invite you to reflect on how you might answer these questions yourself, even if you are not a teacher at the school.

1) Do you think that the students in this school are better-behaved than in the other schools that you taught in? Generally, I find that the students at this school behave according to standards that I have found in many other Lasallian schools. It comes from two things. First, there is a growing understanding and respect that students have for themselves and others, and this is something that is generated by the kinds of interaction that are encouraged and supported by the staff. Second, students grow to appreciate, and become involved in, a community of persons that includes not only their friends, but also all those who are associated with the school in various ways (support people, parents, coaches, invited guests, etc.). The only difference that I would say I have found at SJI International is that here most students have a disposition and background that makes them particularly open to these kinds of developments. Their experience in an internationally-based culture, manifested both at home and in the larger Singaporean society, makes them more open to the rapid development of these appreciation factors in themselves and in others. There’s a great social work ethic at play here.

2) Do you think that the staff members in this school treat one other fairly? From all that I have seen, the staff members treat one another very fairly, and they are generous with their time and talents in supporting the efforts of other staff members. In a recently introduced process for complimenting fellow staff members at our staff briefings, this continues to be confirmed. The shape of the larger school community is significantly impacted by the community that is shaped among school staff, and in that respect we have been, and continue to be, blessed.

3) What do you think about the students in this school? I think that the students at our school have high standards for themselves, and there are high standards that are imposed on them from the outside. As they move through the learning process, and as they are guided by good teachers and other role models, they come to discover that there is more to learning than recalling facts or toning intellectual skills, and that there is more to themselves than their brains. The central role of personal development - intellectually, emotionally, spirituality, relationally, etc. - comes to life during these formative years, guided by friendships, struggles, challenges, joys, and all those things that happen during this key personal development period. As a result, people begin to blossom into who they were ready to be, and students begin to see in others the same sorts of things that they are discovering in themselves. In all, it makes for a vibrant and rather busy school community.