Years ago when I taught at the International School of Islamabad in Pakistan, I worked with a dynamite principal who helped establish a powerful culture of caring among our students. Our school was guided by three simple principles: Take Care of Yourself, Take Care of Others and Take Care of Our Place. Our students soon learned that every action could be seen as an instance of one of these ideas. Ever since, no matter where I teach, I begin the year with an investigation of caring.
I’ve recently joined the amazing community at the Nanjing International School as a Grade 3 PYP teacher. My first week with my students was spent establishing our ‘essential agreements’. We began by discussing why we come to school and the students quickly agreed that ‘learning’, ‘making friends’ and ‘having fun’ are of paramount importance.
Once these goals were established we discussed the many behaviors that can either support these goals or keep us from them. After brainstorming these I introduced the three ‘caring’ principles, and the students sorted the many behaviors into one or more of the categories. They soon realized that each of the behaviors they imagined fit nicely into these three simple ideas.
Kids love to be on stage so I asked partners to develop skits that show us specific examples of how they can ‘take care of themselves, of others, and of this place.’ They had no difficulty showing us how to eat healthy food and get exercise, to help a friend who has fallen down, or to pick up trash or plant flowers.
After this I began each day by asking the kids to share different examples of the three caring principles. I also asked them to describe counter examples. This way we reinforced the many choices we make to take care of ourselves, of each other and of our place.
The fourth day of school I reminded the kids of their goals (to learn, make friends and have fun) and I asked them if we can all agree that taking care of ourselves, each other and our place would be good ways to achieve these goals. They also came up with different ways that they should behave in class, but they found that these neatly fit into one of our caring behaviors.
By agreeing to these principles of caring, we take our first steps towards a culture of caring and our year is off to a great start!