The expression, “the Lowell Way”, conveys our intent to communicate with children respectfully and consistently. An honest respect for children nourishes self-esteem, the basis for all learning. In an increasingly violent world, the need for emotional literacy is clear and the need for positive self-esteem is vital.
For the staff, respect for both younger and older children means being truly present, listening actively to their thoughts and feelings, and responding with empathy. Respect for children necessitates that teachers describe children’s conflicts, expecting them to be part of the solution. Limits are set in a firm and friendly manner and consequences are natural, not punitive. Respect for children compels teachers to honor process, to be facilitators so that children can be the workers. Positive self-esteem comes from doing, not from evaluative praise. Praise at Lowell is descriptive, a verbal snapshot of the child’s work. Finally, respect for children means that teachers treat children as if they already are what they would like them to become. Teachers strive to be a storehouse for a child’s finest moments.
As children grow, they are increasingly able to model this respectful communication. Having been listened to, they themselves become responsive listeners. Having heard positive language, they can voice their own concerns and displeasures productively. They can collaborate to solve problems, resolve conflicts, and recognize when to enlist the assistance of teachers; upper grade students may even become peer mediators. When respectful communication nourishes self-esteem, both the quality of learning and the sense of community are enhanced.