The motto of the school is “safe and respectful learners”. As I worked with the children, I wondered whether the meaning of the motto had been deconstructed for them. They are very good at parroting the motto, but it did not appear to be integrated into classroom practice, the curriculum, and the playground. I have observed some school staff not role modelling the principles.
Last year I was thinking about doing some community projects about choosing respect, deconstructing what respect is, and following up with practical activities. My manager mentioned that there is a website called Choose Respect, created by Gary Butcher in Western Australia http://www.chooserespect.com/powerpoint_presentation.html.
I contacted Gary by email, telling him about the community I work in, and asking him about his programme. Gary rang me and told me he was coming to Sydney for a conference and he would love to speak to the community about Choose Respect. I advertised the meeting across the local government area through community networks and local newspapers. Gary visited in June 2010 and spoke to an audience of approximately sixty people, all from community organisations. His talk about Choose Respect was inspiring.
Choose Respect is an overarching umbrella for everything that the community decides to initiate around the theme of respect. The principles are simply about respect for environment, property, culture, and people. The one principle that is different to most discussion about respect is the choice to “treat others with respect no matter how they treat you”. Whenever, respect is mentioned, it is usually associated with “you have to give respect, in order to get respect”. The other really nice parts of the strategy are forgiveness, and choosing not to seek revenge.
Gary came back to Sydney in August 2010, and spoke to children, parents, and teachers at the school I work in. Choose Respect is going ahead in one local area, with the organisation I work for being the lead agency. The community I work in has very few services and at this time there is not enough momentum to establish the project in the area.