I recently joined the Montpelier Rotary. I have been looking for more ways to be able to connect with the Montpelier community. After a lunch where our elementary students sang, I was approached by a current member. He's a former superintendent from New York and after a cup of coffee at Capitol Grounds, I decided to join. It is a service organization, "where neighbors, friends, and problem-solvers share ideas, join leaders, and take action to create lasting change" (www.rotary.org). My grandfather was a Rotarian and I deeply admired and respected him.
One of the guiding principles of Rotary is the 4 Way Test:
We say it at the beginning of every meeting and it grounds the work of the Rotary, as I can observe from the limited time since I've been a member.
Seems to me there's room for the 4 Way Test in many more places than Rotary though. Applying this in our professional and personal realms would give us room to reflect on what we think, say, and do. Given the nature of the test, affirming each of these questions, or at the very least the majority of them, will ensure that what we think, say and do have a good, solid foundation. For me, the 4 Way Test also goes a long way to honoring relationships, critical to our work.
One of the wonderful things about working in education and with children on a regular basis, is that we need to hold them to high standards when it comes to their relationships, both with each other and with us as adults. We must hold ourselves to those same expectations. We cannot, we must not, have one standard for students and another for ourselves. Gone are the days of do as I say, not as I do - and nor were those days very effective either.
Across our district, I routinely see and hear adults ensuring that students are actively listening, honoring feelings, and being respectful of one another. It is critical that as adults we are doing the same thing, even if we are having a conversation with someone who believes the antithesis of what we believe. It is easy to be respectful when we agree with someone. We establish ourselves as exemplars when we listen, honor feelings, and are respectful to someone who believes something we don't. We all put our pants on one leg at a time...
Our world certainly feels differently than it has in recent years. There is much more polarizing rhetoric, quick judgements, and harsh commentary. That is not a value statement - just an observation. When we hear that in our classrooms, hallways, and athletic fields, we as adults are quick to intervene and address it. We need to do the same for ourselves. It takes courage and integrity.
Perhaps we need to more consistently apply The 4 Way Test.