| Contents |
Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3... | Chapter 4 | Chapter 4 part 2 |
| Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 6 part 2 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 |
Building self-esteem and respect for others
1. Dealing with conflict
It is of fundamental importance to develop a consistent strategy for dealing with
conflict. Most successful routines centre on problem-solving, and the best allow children
to deal with as many conflicts as they can without outside help.
One approach that has been found to be effective was developed by Rosemary Milne as
part of more general work, she did on moral development in early childhood. In a way, her
approach is no more than common sense, but spelling out clearly what is
sensible is very.useful for those unsure of how to proceed. Rosemary's model, used
regularly and conscientiously, becomes very easy to implement. Pre-school and primary
children learn to use it confidently and without assistance. It is reproduced (with the
author's permission) below:
||This model provides steps in the process of dealing with
naturally-arising social conflict between children 4-5 years of age, in a preschool
environment, to facilitate the development of moral reasoning and behaviour.
1. Identification and Acceptance of Conflict Situation
1.1 Halt any physical or verbal aggression or physical struggle for possession.
1.2 Recognize and accept the conflict situation and call for deliberation by all
Defuse any guilt of children about being involved in conflict by an attitude that some
conflict is a natural part of social interaction and learning how to deal fairly in
conflict situations is valuable and interesting learning.
Examples: There seems to be a problem here; let's sort it out. Don't run away,
Bill, we need your thinking too.
2. Description of Incident
2.1 Obtain a description of the incident:from the perspective of each participant,
including feelings and intentions, and lead-in events. Express the value of each
perspective as a contribution to the total description, even when contradictory.
2.2 Support by showing respect and empathy for each participant, e.g. by touch, and, if
necessary, by helping participant with his or her verbal expression. In cases where a
participant is unable to express his or her own point of view, the teacher may encourage a
bystander (a child who has watched the incident but is not involved) to do so, or may do
2.3 Encourage each to listen to other's description in turn, without interruption and
contradiction. Avoid the impression that there is one true description from one
2.4 Summarize the sequence of events described, including the feelings and intentions.
Example: You tell us first, Bill, how do you see what happened here...Yes. Now
we'll all listen to John. Bill sees it this way ... and John sees it this way.
3. Exploration of Range of Alternatives
3.1 Encourage participants to think of more than one tentative solution without judging
the proposals at this stage. Example: Let's all think of some ways to handle this.
3.2 Help participants verbally express alternatives, in turn, whilst others listen, and
acknowledge each contribution. Example: John has suggested that you might...; now
we'll listen to Bill's ideas.
3.3 Provide opportunities for further contributions from participants and observers.
Example: Yes, we've thought about doing...and...Does anyone have another idea? If
participants do not express alternatives, the teacher may invite bystanders to do so.
Example: Let's ask Jane if she can think of anything. If no alternatives are
offered, the teacher may offer some of her own ideas. She should always seek more than one
idea so that her suggestions are not accepted too readily on the basis of her authority,
thus foreclosing the reasoning process. She may prompt the children with clues, to
stimulate them to see other possibilities for themselves, rather than give her own
Example: What about the basket; perhaps that could be moved; how?
The teacher's responsibility is to see that, in the set of alternatives presented, there
is at least one which involves a cognitive challenge stretching the child's thinking.
4. Reasoning about Alternatives
4.1 Recall set of alternatives offered. Summarize them as several main options. At first,
two alternatives may be as many as children can consider together; later three.
4.2 Encourage participants and observers to reason about alternatives, using the concept
of fair play. Recognize each child's contribution. Stretch their reasoning to a higher
level by questioning which brings out contradictions. Avoid giving the impression that
there is only one fair solution.
4.3 Encourage children to think of physical and emotional consequences, drawing on their
Example: Would that be fair to Bill ... to John? You think not, in what way is it
fair and not fair? That's an interesting thought. What if ... happened; would that make it
5. Choice of Action
5.1 Seek a decision from participants; ask for mutual choice on the action to be taken in
the light of the previous reasoning. Do not seek an absolute solution based on the notion
of the existence of one right answer to the problem; rather, seek a choice of one of
several possible fair solutions.
Example: O.K. Now you two decide what you both want to do.
5.2 Accept agreed-upon solution if reached by consensus of participants. Even if it would
not be her preferred decision the teacher should accept it, unless she judges it
detrimental to the further development of any participant. If detrimental, or if
participants cannot reach a decision, go back to step 3 - Exploration of Alternatives.
Example: Are you sure that's fair enough to John? He needs a turn to be leader
sometimes. Can you think of another way that will give him a go, too?
5.3 Obtain from each participant ratification of the decision, and reinforce the act of
mutual decision making.
Example: Is that O.K. with you? Do you think that's about the fairest for you both?
You've done good thinking.
6. Carrying-out of Action
6.1 Encourage children to observe consequences.
Example: Now you can see how it works out.
6.2 Expect participants to act in accordance with the decision. If necessary, hold child
to his decision and uphold the agreed-upon action. If dissatisfaction is expressed after a
trial, expect participants to go back to Exploration of Alternatives, with or without help
6.3 Reinforce carrying-out of action, immediately, if judged appropriate, with smile,
comment or display of interest. Such extrinsic reward is not always necessary especially
when the action is seen to bring satisfaction to the participants.
Facilitate further reasoning and empathy, if judged appropriate, by a variety of follow-up
methods later, including one or more of the following: puppet-plays, role-playing,
stories, discussion, and recalling the incident when a similar one arises.
Such follow-up work may focus on some of the following:
further practice with this type of problem in a less emotionally-charged atmosphere;
seeing relationships between different moral problems; practising verbal skills of
assertion, request, etc.; reasoning and feeling from the perspective of one's antagonist
by taking his or her role; taking two perspectives on one incident (as when a child has a
puppet participant in each hand, or when he or she plays first one role then the other);
examining consequences from different decisions (as when a conflict-situation is played
out several times with variations).
||Notes on the Model
1. Similar strategy for
children or adults:
The main steps in the strategy for dealing with moral-conflict situations are the same for
the children as for the teacher who intervenes. Hence, a process is being learned whereby
children can eventually solve their own conflicts with peers, without adult help.
Example from teacher's diary:
Two boys are arguing about blocks and the teacher moves near.
Bob: This is a boy's problem; we don't need you.
Teacher: Can you settle it fairly for both?
Both children: Yeah, go away, we can manage.
Teacher: O.K., that's good.
The same strategy can also be employed in many adult-child conflicts.
2. Knowledge of development:
A teacher using this strategy needs some knowledge of moral development in children.
However, the teacher does not need to be able to identify a particular child as being at a
particular stage of moral development, in order to facilitate development by the use of
this model. The teacher exposes all participants to cognitive challenge at the step of
Reasoning about Alternatives, confronting them with thinking at a higher level to the
thinking they are displaying in this particular situation.
A teacher using this strategy needs to understand the logical sequences of steps. However,
in the natural situation, elements within steps may follow a different sequence according
to the transactions which take place. The sequence of the main steps is considered
important and should not be altered. Children may at first find it difficult to separate
Exploration of Range of Alternatives from Reasoning about Alternatives. The teacher is
advised to work towards the differentiation of these two steps so as to encourage
confidence and breadth in seeking alternatives and to discourage too-hasty settlement on
Example: We'll come to that in a minute, Jane, but first let's get some other
ideas. Then we can work out which seems fairest.
If a child has difficulty staying in the discussion situation through feelings of guilt or
threat, or lack of confidence, the physical support of the teacher through touch is often
effective. Likewise, a friendly arm around each of the two antagonists will often help
them to remain face-to-face.
(Rosemary Milne, Moral development in early childhood, Ph.D. thesis, Melbourne, 1984,
The following summarises the steps in the model.
||Model of strategy for dealing with naturally-arising moral
1. Identification and Acceptance of Situation
2. Description of Incident
3. Exploration or Range of Alternatives
4. Reasoning about Alternatives
5. Choice of Action
6. Carrying out of Action
Some conflicts cannot be dealt with in this common-sense way. They are the ones too
loaded with prejudice or stereotyping to be sustained by common-sense.
What, for example, should be done about racist name-calling or derogatory and
discriminatory comments of any other kind? Take the case of race. The article 'Childcare
shapes the future' in the issue of Interracial Books for Children Bulletin cited
||Act immediately. Do not side-step the issue with a response
like 'All people are alike' or '[It] doesn't matter'. Such statements deny obvious
differences and may suggest that such differences are something to be ashamed of or that
the adult is not concerned about the feelings of [the victim]. First, strongly criticize
the racist behavior and make clear that it is definitely unacceptable. Be firm yet
supportive with the child who did the insulting; you can say something like, 'I will not
let you use that word. It hurts people's feelings too much. It is wrong for you to call
names' Offer clear support to the insulted child [where there is one] and do not criticize
this child for showing anger, fear or confusion. Help [victimised children] to realize
that negative responses to their appearance, language or race are due to a racist society.
The incident may have been provoked by a controversy unconnected to race. If so, help the
children settle the non-racial part of the argument.
[Use the method previously described for this.]
Discuss such incidents with parents and
staff, and encourage parents to reinforce the school's anti-racist practices. Remember
that because of societal racism, such incidents will occur again and again; try not to be
discouraged. Consistency in dealing with such behavior is of the essence.
((1983) 14, 7&8 Interracial Books for Children Bulletin, 13-4.)
The same article also points out that:
||Teachers and parents usually avoid discussing racism or
deny its existence. This behavior is supported and encouraged by the fact that neither
racism nor positive cultural differences are discussed in the vast majority of classes and
texts on child development and early childhood education. Such behavior may, in fact,
actually reinforce racism. For instance, a white child may object to sitting next to
another child because of the child's race. And the teacher may ignore the statement or say
only, 'Don't say that! It isn't nice' ' If nothing is done to reestablish the self-esteem
of the child of color and to change the white child's behavior-that's not just avoiding
the issue, it's reinforcing racism.
In the same vein, teachers (and other adults) often
claim to be 'color blind'; they say, 'I just see the child, not the color.' By denying
racial differences, those teachers are refusing to see the child's full humanity, which includes
the child's membership in a racial and cultural group. By the same token, when adults
speak of children of color as 'culturally deprived', then they are really saying, 'My
culture is superior to theirs'.
Boy-girl conflicts can be dealt with in a similar way:
||Children who say 'No boys allowed!' or 'No girls here!' can
learn to change their behavior. Never allow exclusion based on sex. Develop firm
rules against calling names...or using expressions such as 'You throw like a girl!' Such
name-calling hurts people. Be clear about your position: 'No sexist insults allowed!'
Teach children to resolve conflicts on their own. Girls must learn not to turn to an adult
all the time; instead they must assert themselves... Boys must learn how to use words and
how to negotiate solutions peacefully. All children should learn how to participate
in school and home decision-making. Children can help establish and enforce
sex-fair rules that will benefit everyone.
Rosemary Milne's experience is worth citing once again:
||Another important concept with which we had to come to
grips was that of rules. An action which carries in the mind of the child a rule status,
would appear to carry additional weight in making a link between moral judgment and moral
behaviour. Teachers tended to be ambivalent about the rule-enforcing part of their role.
the beginning of the project, teachers felt an awareness of the problems and the
confusions which might arise in a moral education program that stimulated four- year-old
children to question and challenge the rules and the decisions of their care-giving
adults. Respect for adults, respect for rules which must be obeyed (particularly safety
rules), and the security feelings of children which are dependent on children's feelings
of order, predictability, and protectedness within the preschool group, were felt to be
important factors to be preserved.
It was soon found that discussion between children and teacher, even including
challenge and argument by children about a teacher's point of view, did not present a
problem in terms of the teacher's authority. It was readily apparent to the children at
preschool that the teacher was more experienced and had more responsibility in handling
moral issues. In fact, soon some teachers were feeling that the problem went in the
opposite direction: that children retained 'too much' respect for teachers' contributions
and it was considered a red-letter achievement when one teacher recorded in her journal an
incident in which the children said to her, 'We don't need you, we can settle this
What children had learned was not inert knowledge of absolute rigid moral rules:
rather, they had begun to learn how to go about making moral decisions, what criteria to
consider, how to weigh solutions, and, most of all, they were seen to be gaining
confidence in their own knowledge in an appropriate situation, i.e. a situation not too
complex to be handled at the children's level of development. The teacher's authority
remained as a resource which the children called on, and as something inherent in her
responsibility for the welfare of the whole group of children. 'We don't need adults',
said Bruce crossly as the teacher came up to see why one child was being physically pushed
on the climbing frame. 'I think you do, here ' said the teacher firmly, 'because this is
not a safe thing to do and we have a rule about it which you have to remember.'
The teachers in the project came to view the authority of the teacher as being less of
a rule-making authority and more of an upholding of the principle of justice, i.e. respect
for each person. However, there must still be clear recognition of the need (in stage
theory) for young children to proceed towards the stage of respect for the rules of
society. The problem is to help children grow to respect rules in such a way that they
will not then remain fixated at that stage of moral development but will be able to move
on to higher levels of respect for universal principles (which rules may sometimes
(Rosemary Milne, op.cit., pp.336-8.)
3. The Circle
The circle is a practical way of helping teachers and students talk about their ideas and
feelings. It allows each individual a say, and promotes the sense that we all share basic
concerns, despite the variety of our personal experience facilitates the flow of
information within the group, while encouraging trusting and supportive relationships. The
basic procedure is very simple:
||(a) arrange the children in a circle that includes yourself and any
visitors, if they care to join in;
(b) set some operating rules, e.g. one person talks at a time; each takes a turn, everyone
listens when someone talks (and everyone looks their way as well) those who don't want to
talk can pass. This can be done in order, or you can allow children to speak when they
want to, provided they don't interrupt. Hand around a prop, perhaps, to show who is
(c) provide a 'handle' or stem. This is half-a-sentence, such as, 'I work best when...'
Complete the sentence yourself to give the children an idea of what is involved, and how
frank they can be;
(d) provide a short 'thinking time';
(e) pass the 'handle' around the circle, for each child to complete;
(f) let the group know when the session will end, to let the more shy members decide to
have a say;
(g) never reject an answer. Inside the circle, there is no wrong reply. If you cannot
establish a non-judgmental atmosphere, where the children listen with care as well as talk
with confidence, this technique won't work.
This means saying only positive things that help people feel heard, such as:
- I've felt that too!
- Would you like to tell us any more about that?
- How did that make you feel?
- That's like what (Fred, Frieda) said!
- You mean ... ?
- Thank you.
The circle can be used for many purposes (See H. Bessel & V. Palomares, Methods
in human development, Human Development Institute, El Cajon, 1970 for more details).
It can be used for feedback and evaluation, e.g. 'Today I learned...'; 'The high point of
today was...' 'The low point of today was...' It can be used to relate schoolwork to
children's lives, e.g. you have been reading a story and in discussing it, you use a
handle like: 'The same thing happened to me when...' Or you have been studying a concept,
and you pass around the handle: 'I think that word is about...' This provides more meaning
to otherwise unreal or abstract subjects and, allows you to find out more clearly what
children have understood. At the same time it helps consolidate the group and encourages
Among these purposes it can be used quite specifically to provide opportunities to
foster self-esteem, and social tolerance. It will do this in general terms anyway, since
it puts everyone, as individuals, in an affirmative situation. By nodding and using
understanding words you can reinforce this. Try the following handles:
- What I like best about myself is ...
- I'd like to be ...
- All by myself I can ...
- My favourite game is ...
- My name means ...
- I would like to learn most about ...
- I feel happiest when ...
- I feel sad when ...
- I want to become more ...
- Someday I hope ...
- Something I can do now I couldn't before is ...
- My mother/father says I'm good at ...
- At home I'm best at ...
- At school I'm best at ...
(b) Social understanding:
- What I like best about friends is ...
- Helping other people is important because ...
- I'm different from everyone else because ...
- I'm the same as everyone else because ...
- I'd like to teach everybody how to ...
- When I help others, I feel ...
- I need other people because ...
The authors cited above (H. Bessel and V. Palomares) recommend the circle as a daily
ritual. They have provided a number of answers to the sort of questions that crop up when
teachers start thinking of using it or have tried it out and run into strife. These
answers are given below:
||1. What if very few children participate?
My answer: Hang in there. It takes them time to see that it's a safe place and that
whatever they say will be accepted. Many children watch and gradually join in.
been trying it a long time and my two shy children don't say a word, but they seem to be
Response: Relax. They benefit from hearing others, less shy, voice FAMILIAR
feelings. Once the shy children see more similarities between themselves and others, they
might join in.
3. What if several children repeat what someone else said?
My answer: That's very important to the child who first said it. Also, this is not
unusual. The repeating children heard an 'accepted response', so they copy it. This might
be the right amount of risk for them for a while. Also, remember that what one person
feels usually is SHARED by many others-a wonderful and reassuring discovery. A SPECIFIC
TECHNIQUE you might use to capitalize on shared feelings and reduce repetitions is: For a
popular response, ask 'How many others of us feel that way?'
Poll people and then ask for other responses: 'Lots of us feel that way. Now what else
does anyone want to share?'
4. What if everyone keeps passing?
My suspicion: Your handle is too hard, too general or too risky. Or children don't
feel comfortable and there's something wrong in the atmosphere you've established.
Sometimes children, especially older ones, appreciate a variety of handles.
5. What if children don't listen to each other?
Answer: Make it absolutely clear how important it is to listen. If children are
just plain noisy, feel free to stop the circle and try it again another day. This seems to
be a good way to show children you REALLY think it's necessary for them to listen to one
6. What handles could you use after a fight?
My answer: Some teachers hold circles at times like that. Personally, I avoid it.
For me, circle time is special and safe, done when people can be accepting, trusting and
least defensive. After an incident, rules are bound to be broken, feelings resented, etc.
Try something else.
7. What if children lie, eg. a child with no sister says, "My sister likes me
because I'm helpful to her?
My opinion: The circle is meant to get at feelings and concerns. By saying what he
or she's saying, he or she's expressing something meaningful TO HIM or HER. Listen and
accept it. If it recurs a lot, you might want to explore the meaning with the child
8. What if a child says something bad, like.- "Sometimes I wish I could kill my
Answer: Relax. He or she's expressing a feeling. You might say 'Your brother
really makes you angry, doesn't he?' Perhaps, reflect back to the child the FEELING you
think is behind the wish. This shows an acceptance of the feeling, without condoning the
9. What if a child gives an answer clearly aimed at hurting someone else or
undermining the group?
My opinion: For instance, if a child says, 'One thing that bothers me a lot is THE
WAY MARY TALKS'. Some teachers panic. Others discourage this by making the child
accountable for the statement, perhaps by saying, 'Molly, after the circle, I want us to
ask Mary how she felt about your response.'
10. What happens when it's time to end the circle, but the children don't want to
My opinion: So as not to frustrate them, you could give them a minute or two in
which to share other responses with the person next to them.
11. Do you run circles with a whole class?
My opinion: I do often. It's a matter of preference. Some teachers work with half
the class at a time.
12. Do you ever ask a child to leave the circle?
My opinion: I have, although I usually give a warning first, like 'Shanti, I want
you here in the circle, but.you must stop talking'. Also, it often helps to remind
children of the rule before the circle begins. If lots of children are talking, I end the
13. Does this technique ever bring out feelings children can't handle?
My opinion: If you mean that a child might look sad or cry when he or she responds
to a handle like 'I feel sad when...': yes. You might encourage the expression of feelings
that make YOU uncomfortable. The child probably won't be uncomfortable with it unless he
or she senses you are. What usually happens is that students do become sensitive to the
level of sharing that his or her group can accept and they stay within those limits. If
you want to ENCOURAGE deeper sharing, you might have to model it yourself by sharing at a
personal level and showing that it's O.K.
It is often useful or interesting to ask the whole class to think about something, and
write down everything they suggest, no matter how improbable. There are three basic rules:
explain the topic; accept any suggestion at all that comes to mind; and disallow criticism
while this is going on. Try to get the class to think of more ideas, even when everyone
says they have finished.
Teachers not used to this technique need not fear. A few suggestions will allow you to use
it successfully, without being too ambitious, though regard will need to be given to the
feelings of individuals and the social structure of the class. A role-play about ethnic
conflict, for example, will need to account for the ethnic composition of the class
A role-play is like a little drama played out before the class. It is largely
improvised. Having set the scene with the basic ideas, you will want to allow time for
those chosen to take part to think about what they will say (individually or in groups),
or you can proceed at once to enact it. This can be done as a story (with a narrator, and
the key characters taking up the thread where appropriate) or as a situation (where the
key characters interact, making up dialogue on the spot-perhaps with the help of the
teacher and the rest of the class).
Whatever approach is taken, it works best to keep any single scene short, and allow for
discussion afterwards. You will want to discourage students from becoming their role.
Participants should be able to step back from what they are doing, to comment perhaps, or
to ask questions, and members of the class should be able to comment and question too;
even join in the role-play if it helps.
Arrange with the teacher of an upper primary class for each member of your own to have a
senior buddy share an activity or some food, and encourage your children to seek out the
help of their buddy if they have a problem. Devise ways to encourage the senior buddy to
take an interest in his or her small colleague, helping teaching, for example, or showing
games. Have the juniors share a circle, or story-telling, or their art with them.
By concentrating on a special topic or theme, feelings of self-esteem and social
tolerance, and the values intrinsic to the human rights doctrine, can be fostered very
effectively. It is an indirect approach. However, an appropriate project focus, followed
through in a systematic fashion, can bring the core values alive just as well as more
Three projects are cited below, to suggest what is possible in this way:
See Elke Muzik's unit, Chapter 4
(ii) Multi-cultural Australia
There is a lot of advice available for those who want to do a multiculturalism unit with
junior primary classes. This is an established theme, and most education systems have
consultant specialists who can recommend good resources and strategies. The first step is
to org-anise activities that value the variety of the cultures and ethnic backgrounds that
make up Australian society today. Food sharing, costume wearing, songs and dances, are
typical class activities; plus the celebration of a range of culture specific festivals.
There is always the danger of trivialising any or all of the cultures concerned, reducing
them to things that taste, look, sound or feel strange or odd. As a result, children may
learn to disvalue variety, rather than value it. Hence the need to foster tolerance and
respect in an active fashion throughout.
You can never assume that information alone will develop positive attitudes towards
other people. Accurate information is necessary. It is fundamental, but it is not enough.
The opposite of ignorance may be knowing acceptance or distaste. It depends upon the value
placed upon the facts. It depends, in other words, upon the feel of those facts.
Your own attitudes will be important, since if you do not value variety yourself, you will
find it difficult to convey such a sense to your students. Which is the sort of thing that
determines the 'facts' you are likely to choose in the first place!
Stories are a good resource, as ever, particularly if told by adults or children from
another culture, involving characters the children can get to know and like. Puppet making
and puppet play are obvious follow-ups.
One teacher who took part in the 1985 Schools Program tried the following with her 6-9
||First I had them do books about themselves, memories of
early years, people, trips to other places. After drawing up a profile of themselves to
compare with an imaginary child in Greece, we have gone on to making up a person from a
particular cultural context. To do this the children (in groups) picked a card from boxes
of countries, religion, education, health and male or female. From this they drew round
someone, cut that out and painted and stuffed it to get a three dimensional shape, and are
now working out the biography of that person so they can learn about similarities,
differences, and the rights of people within different cultures.
Parents and grandparents can provide much support to a multi-culturalism course, as can
the children themselves, particularly where they come from diverse backgrounds.
The second step is to establish a sense of unity in all this diversity; an awareness of
'Australia' as a cultural entity in its own right, regardless of its compound roots. This
means looking at the 'mix' that makes up our modern way of living, and how this mix comes
This may be easier to do where children from different cultures are present in the
classroom itself. You have a living laboratory around you, full of experiments in
precisely this process. Culturally uniform classes can still trace the influences of other
ways of living on their own however. They can be helped to see how recent an import is the
Anglo-based mono-culture, from which Australians draw their common language, law,
political and administrative traditions. Activities can be planned to highlight
'immigration' for example, and how we are all immigrants in historical terms (charting
family trees is one standard way of doing this). And attempts can be made (more explicitly
with older children) to define our 'Aussie-ness' and the benefits brought to Australia by
all those who have come in the last 40 000 years (with particular emphasis on the last 200
and the last 40, given their profound effects). The point is that wherever we may have
come from we are all 'Australians' here. 'Australians' however are not all exactly the
same. If they were, that would be very boring indeed!
The third step is to foster the feeling that wherever we come from, and as Australians,
we are all entitled to a fair go. Since this is what the human rights doctrine is all
about, any of the activities that teach for humane values, self-esteem and social
tolerance, should promote such a feeling. At this point, multi-culturalism becomes
teaching for human rights, which is the basis of this book.
(iii) Aboriginal Australia
Another school participating in the Human Rights Commission's Schools Program for 1985
provided the following account as part of its project report:
||Our school is democratically run by parents, teachers and
28 children aged between 41/2 and 11 years. There are no separate classes or grades so
that children of different ages can be found working and playing together at any time.
There is also no set timetable, the only regular events in every day being the morning
meeting and clean-up time followed by story reading at the end the day.
meeting has been an important and unchanging feature in the school's ten years of
operation. It is here that the day's activities are planned, news and coming events
announced, grievances aired and rules discussed. As meetings are chaired by a different
child each day they often appear chaotic and noisy but they have proved to be essential in
allowing everyone, no matter how young, to assert their rights and have a say in
decision-making which affects them...
Our decision not to dwell too deeply on present horrors of inhumanity where
millions of people are daily denied many of their very basic human rights, led us to our
main topic of study-the human rights of Tasmanian Aborigines: past and present.
We planned...excursions to sacred sights such as Oyster Cove and to visit the
Aboriginal Centre on Flinders Island to meet many of the descendants of the Tasmanian
Aborigines who live there. We also planned to make a video about human rights for
Tasmanian Aborigines and see the film Manganini.
We found that the study of Tasmanian Aborigines led to many...issue areas--human rights
and 'the law' (how the Aborigines were forced to comply with European law; what their own
laws were); 'life' (how after one generation European settlement had led to the population
of Tasmanian Aborigines being reduced from some 4 000 to 135 and to the eventual
extinction of all full blooded Aborigines in less than 80 years. 'Freedom of conscience,
opinion and expression', and freedom of assembly, association and participation in public
office', could also be demonstrated, as Tasmanian Aborigines in the past were vigorously
denied them. They remain relevant to present land rights issues. A comparison of the
economic, social and cultural well-being of the past and present Aborigines led many to
conclude that many Aborigines would have been better off in the past. Present day
Aborigines, when we spoke to them on Flinders Island, were able to give many examples of
prejudice and discrimination when talking of their rights merely to call themselves
Aboriginal, and to fly their flag without it being vandalised.
The family tree was easily demonstrated by many of the Aborigines, who were able to
trace their descendancy back for several generations; some to before the arrival of
All children from 4 to 11 years, plus many interested parents and friends were involved
in the planning of excursions, visiting speakers, plays and films. The programme has had
to be a very practical and active one since the majority of the children are under eight.
Camping on Flinders Island, eating shellfish and muttonbirds and smearing ourselves with
ochre, could give the younger ones an impression of what life was like for Tasmanian
Aborigines which a book lesson could not. Older children did, however, agree to keep
written accounts of what they were learning and to evaluate the activities.
8. Seizing the moment
A participant teacher said the following when commenting on her Year 3 project:
||Originally half an hour to an hour was set aside for the
Human Rights programme. However, as the children and myself became more familiar
(comfortable) with the concept of the rights of others, ourselves, and the problems that
arise when one's own rights are in conflict with the rights of others, 'Human Rights'
lessons could crop up anytime.
Discussions were more interesting and fruitful when they
were initiated by a playground conflict or a news item that caught the children's
imagination. The discussions themselves often gave material for considering the rights of
others. Children became aware of the rights of others to have a different point of view
and the opportunity to express that point of view.
Striking while the iron's hot is an excellent general technique, but it requires a good
grasp of the doctrine of human rights as a whole, so you can place what has happened in
context and respond adequately and at once.
Another Grade 3 teacher had the following to say in her project report:
||One of my most effective teaching strategies was the
setting of 'Human Rights' homework. After completing a session...homework would be set,
dealing with a value or question discussed with them in the grade. The parental feedback
was most valuable. The children were able to discuss concepts with their parents, which
probably could have never been brought up otherwise.
These are grouped under two main headings, which can be used as separate units of work,
or combined in a total program. The first group is meant to foster self-esteem; the
second social tolerance.
||1. Who am I and what am I like?
2. How do I live with others?
1. Who am I? What am I like? (self-esteem)
(a) An 'All About Me' or 'Who am I?'book
This is described in detail by Stephanie Peters in The Circle
section of this Chapter. Pass around the handles provided there, sharing time as equally
as possible, and taking care to deal with negative comments in a positive way. Answers
might be entered later into the 'All About Me' or 'Who am I?' book.
(c) The life line
A long-established technique with many variations. Basically, each child stretches out a
piece of yarn somewhere accessible. This represents his or her own life. They then hang
drawings, or later, stories from the line, that detail the highlights-the important
things-that have happened to them. This can be done in chronological sequence, or in any
other order the child may want. It can also be extended into the future.
(d) Me on the wall
Trace the outline of each child on a large piece of paper (best done lying down). Have him
or her paint in details, and then write personal particulars on a label which is then
attached (name; height; weight; what the child would most like to learn or do at school).
Pin or stick these up around the wall, and add any newcomers to the frieze as they join
Note however the following comments by one participant teacher:
||It took the children several weeks of class discussions
where all opinions were respected before they felt confident enough to make any adverse
comments on the programme. They eventually told me that they felt the measuring of weight,
height, etc. was an invasion of privacy. One comment was 'I don't want everyone to know
how fat I am'.
(e) Me and my senses
Have children discuss in the circle, draw their response to, role play or otherwise
explore the following questions:
- Hearing helps me to ...
- Seeing helps me to ...
- Smelling helps me to ...
- Touching helps me to ...
- Tasting helps me to ...
Rephrase the questions, where appropriate, to suit the needs of any children with
disabilities, e.g. 'not being able to see (very well; at all) I'm still me, and I can...'
Get the children to invent instruments to help them smell, or touch, or see, or hear,
or taste better.
This can be used to explore aspects of disability with children who have none,
establishing the essential nature of the 'self', that stands independent of any particular
faculty or its impairment.
(f) Wishing well
Reconvene the circle. Suggest that it is the edge of a wishing well. Propose that each
child in turn makes the following wishes (this can also be done in small groups or pairs):
- If I could be any animal, I'd be_______ because...
- If I could be a bird, I'd be_______ because...
- If I could be an insect, I'd be_______ because...
- If I could be a flower, I'd be_______ because...
- If I could be a tree, I'd be______ because...
- If I could be a piece of furniture, I'd be________ because...
- If I could be a musical instrument, I'd be________ because...
- If I could be a building, I'd be_______ because...
- If I could be a car, I'd be_______ because...
- If I could be a street, I'd be_______ because...
- If I could be a State or Territory, I'd be_______ because...
- If I could be a foreign country I'd be_______ because...
- If I could be a game, I'd be______ because...
- If I could be a record, I'd be______ because...
- If I could be a TV show, I'd be______ because...
- If I could be a movie, I'd be______ because...
- If I could be a food, I'd be______ because ...
- If I could be any colour, I'd be______ because...
2. How do I live with others? (social tolerance)
(a) My family
Have children think about their families, and the relationships within them. Get them to
cut out coloured stars--one for each family member, plus one for themselves. Write the
names of the respective individuals on each star. Stick the stars on a single sheet in
such a way as to show how they relate, and draw lines between them.
Children often come up with patterns unsuspected by parents or relatives, though they
will always have reasons for what they put.
Follow up with puppet play. Each child makes a family of puppets that includes one of
him or herself. These can be very simple (cut out cardboard, for example, coloured and
fixed to sticks), clay or mud figures, even imaginary ones. These can be named by the
child, and their relationships described and explained again. Each child can devise a
ceremony (a wedding, for example) or a festival, which she or he might then show to the
others in the class.
The puppet family can be extended to include other people who live nearby. Children can
dramatise something they do regularly with those people that brings them all together.
Extend the activity to include individuals from anywhere in the world.
(c) Imaginary friend
Have the children sit or lie down with their eyes closed, and quiet. Tell them to breathe
in deeply and then breathe out slowly. Repeat two or more times. Now tell them to imagine
a special place, a favourite place, anywhere in the world (or even out in space). Say that
they are walking in that place--in their imagination--feeling and hearing and seeing what
is going on there. Lead them to a house or a building they can visualise, where they go in
to find a special room. The room has a door in one wall that opens by sliding up. The door
slides up slowly and as it does so it reveals a special friend they have never met
before--first feet, and finally the face. This friend can be old or young--anything. This
friend is always there, and whenever they need someone to talk to, to turn to, they can
visit him or her again if they like. Close the door, leave the house, and come home to the
class. Let the children share what they have imagined, in a speaking circle, or in pairs
(d) Letters and friends
Set up a letter exchange with another class in another school, even another country. You
may have to do the writing yourself at first, but enclose drawings, poems, or gifts from
the class, or whatever else the children want to send. This may lead to a day visit later
if the distance allows, and a chance to meet the children of the other community you have
been corresponding with. Investigate the twin school: how big is it? What games are played
there? What do the parents do? What is different and what is the same? Send thank-you
notes to all the individuals concerned after the visit is over.
(e) The circle
The circle again, applied here to the specific question of social tolerance, As described
in The Circle section. Pass around the handles provided there,
sharing time as equally as possible, and taking care to deal with negative comments in a
positive way. Answers might be entered later into the 'All About Me' or 'Who am I?' book.
(f) Moon people
Talk about 'moon people', How 'moon people' will wear 'moon trousers' ('moon saris' etc.),
have 'moon pets, and so on. Children will elaborate the similarities at vast length and
usually take great pleasure in doing so. The process can be made more graphic and more
immediate in many ways: by dramatisation, craft-work, or whatever is appropriate. Bring
the activity down to earth by repeating it for 'earth people', 'sea people', sky people',
'forest people'. Then do it for people who live in other countries.
(g) The washing machine
Have the children make two parallel lines quite close together, and facing each other.
Send a child from one end between the lines (through the wash). Everyone (where this is
culturally appropriate) pats him or her on the back or shakes his or her hand while
offering words of praise, affection and encouragement. All this activity makes for a
sparkling, shining, happy individual at the end of the 'wash'. He or she joins a line, and
the process is then repeated from the first end. (Running one or two people through daily
is more fun than washing everybody in one big clean-up.)
(This activity and a couple of the previous ones (such as the sentence stubs) were adapted
from J. Canfield & H. Wells, 100 ways to enhance self concept in the classroom,
Prentice-Hall, New Jersey, 1976.)
One participant teacher used the following to good effect with Grade 4 children:
||...'label' children in the class as deaf, blind,
red-haired, crippled, fat, bald, skinny, poor...teeth-braced, spectacled...girls and boys
and vice versa, freckled, asthmatic, old, long nosed, friendless, always picked last in
teams, always comes last in contests, poor speller, etc. Each child has to say what it
would be like with their 'handicap'. Most think their treatment is unfair. They are
treated badly because of something they have little or no control over. All wish they
weren't tormented and teased--'they wouldn't like it if they were me'.
By this point the pattern of how to proceed should be clear. It remains
only to emphasise the importance of classroom climate, and the need for a participative
and cooperative one (even if it seems to mean more confusion and noise!) If you are stuck
at any point, do ask the children for advice. Clarifying with their help what it is you
are trying to do will determine the means for doing it. Ends do not justify means; they
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Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3... | Chapter 4 |Chapter 4 part 2 |
| Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 6 part 2 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 |