Ripples that make a positive difference

New Zealand Secondary Principals’ Council chair James Morris talks about the influence schools have on society in his guest viewpoint.

James Morris web

NZSPC chair James Morris

When a pebble is dropped in water the ripples spread out across the pond affecting things well beyond the point they originated. Our impact on our students through conversations, teaching and advising also ripples through their lives and the lives of others in ways we cannot predict.

We rarely get to know the impact we have on students’ lives which is why it is so gratifying when we do get positive feedback from parents and students, past and present.

In the midst of industrial action and the busyness and complexities of a normal school week it is easy to lose sight of the central role that schools play in building and supporting our communities. Schools, through their interactions with students, cast a long shadow of influence over our society.

Stepping up and support in times of crisis 

Following the Christchurch mosque shootings I was proud of the way students stepped up and worked together across communities to respond in a way that was meaningful for them. These students demonstrated the values and skills that their schools had helped to nurture.

We were also reminded how schools are fundamental to supporting and reassuring students in times of crisis. This is a responsibility that the staff in every school step up to when the need arises.

Celebrating cultural diversity 

Cultural diversity and our acceptance of it have been an important topic of discussion since March. It is important that we give our students opportunities to interact with a range of other cultures so they will be equipped to be fully confident participating in today’s New Zealand society and the rest of the world. If students are unable to do this they will be at a disadvantage and our communities will be less safe.

School values will often express their shared expectation in relation to cultural diversity. ‘Acceptance’ of other cultures seems a low aspiration and many schools work to ‘celebrate’ diversity to reflect more than just putting up with diversity but aspiring to see the value in it. Perhaps the next step beyond this is to ‘embrace’ diversity. This may lead us to a point where we don’t just see the value in diversity rather we actively seek to learn from other cultures and interact openly with them.

Making a significant collective difference through small acts 

We like to think of ourselves as a welcoming and accepting country and community. The fact is however, for many people, we are a very unwelcoming one at times. We need to face up to the reality that some people in our communities, both school and beyond, chose to act and speak in ways that dehumanise people because of their religion, their culture, the way they dress, or look or the colour of their skin.

We are challenged to make a difference by calling out such behaviours for what they are and leading by example. Our interactions with students present an opportunity to make a significant collective difference through many small acts. If we can set an example of embracing diversity through our words and actions we send ripples through society that can make a positive difference.

Last modified on Tuesday, 25 June 2019 09:27