When my daughter Amelia was a New Hand Junior one of her classmates was a boy who was new to the school. After school one day I asked her how he was adjusting. “Well, she began, “he doesn’t have his Arbor eyes yet.” Intrigued, I asked her to elucidate. “He looks for the bad in people instead of looking for the good.”
The notion of “Arbor Eyes” is central to our social curriculum. We as teachers try to see the best in our students, highlighting their strengths in all domains - intellect, character, creativity. Like plants, kids grow toward the light, thriving on “just right” challenges, opportunities, and experiences that help to strengthen their sense of self.
Because they are just kids, a lot of these skills are explicitly taught and woven into the fabric of our day. Whether it’s learning how to hold the door open for the person coming in behind you, thinking of a clever and friendly way to greet the Librarian, learning how to give supportive comments, or being the first person to say “Thank you,” when a piece of paper is handed to you, we’re intentionally developing courtesy in hopes that it will become part of the students’ muscle memory.
Sometimes the lessons are better taught through role modeling and the Denners always get a kick out of seeing us behaving poorly. Just this week we demonstrated the difference between accidentally and intentionally bumping into someone. Tone of voice and extending an invitation to a friend have been other situations that have been modeled.
One of the most notable things about my conversation with Amelia was the fact that she said, “yet.” She was hopeful that her new classmate would come to see the best in others and we too are eternally hopeful and endeavor to instill this optimism in our students.