By Zena Kavas — Biology Teacher — High School
“Preventing conflicts is the work of politics: establishing peace is the work of education.”
Montessori, M. (1992). Education and Peace. Oxford: Clio Press. p. 24.
This quote seems very apt, given that we celebrated Peace Day last Friday. It was a stunning spring day, and it provided an opportunity for the whole school to gather at the Waddington Drive campus to share songs, speeches, a flag ceremony and best of all, playing with the giant earth ball. It is a reminder to us that while the curriculum and the content and the credits are important, there are broader and more holistic purposes of education, like establishing peace. We approach this in a range of different ways; directly through the curriculum and what we teach, using restorative practices when dealing with conflict, participating in a range of activities during reflection, and by modelling behaviours which promote peace.
The New Zealand Curriculum document states “community and participation for the common good is associated with values and notions such as peace, citizenship, and manaakitanga.” These values are researched and taught in a range of classes and situations, including humanities, P.E. and psychology.
Staff in the school are trained in, and follow restorative practices. These practices place high value on building respectful relationships, helping others identify the impact of their actions and supporting others to accept responsibility for their actions and to make more considered choices in the future. Restorative practices are sometimes seen as the ‘easy way out’, often because the perpetrator of the harm is not seen to be punished. However, restorative practices are far more effective than punitive practices. All parties in the conflict are encouraged to actively listen to what others are saying, to see a situation from a different point of view, and to find creative ways to repair the damage done to the relationship. The skills learned in the process are vital steps on the path to establishing peace.
Reflection is practiced each week by students, and the benefits are numerous, from taking a short break from the constant activity of the school day to arriving at a better understanding of oneself and others. Establishing peace must first occur within oneself, inner peace, before we can strive towards outer peace, whether in the family, classroom, country, or world peace. Reflection allows us to start to recognise the thought processes in the mind, and to link these to our behaviours and what is happening around us. It can help us to decide to do something differently. Reflection can help us to understand our classmates better, and to be more tolerant.
Kaiako act as role models, demonstrating and encouraging respectful relationships, and at the same time open to learning from ākonga, acknowledging that the learning relationship is always a two-way relationship.
Peace Day is a beautiful celebration of peace, and a reminder to us that “establishing peace is the work of education.”