Sunday, December 22, 2013

Follow the Sticky Notes

A recent edition of our local newspaper featured a photo of a corridor in one of our local schools.  The photographer captured the full length of the hallway with all the student lockers on either side of the hall.  On every locker and on the walls above the lockers were 500 sticky notes in bright fluorescent colors, each with its own message on it addressed to the student owner of each locker.  

The 500 messages were full of affirmation and encouragement for each student.  The messages said: “Be who you are!”    “You are beautiful inside and out!”   “Smile!”   “You matter!”  “I ‘heart’ you!”   “You are a bright idea!” Students wrote notes to other students and to their teachers.  Teachers wrote notes to the kids.  Even the office personnel custodians and cafeteria staff found notes affirming and appreciating them. 

A teacher remarked “If you talk about school culture, of course the push is toward an anti bullying culture.  But as we talked, we got to thinking, what if we had the kind of culture in our school where that’s not an issue, where we build people up, support them, let them know how wonderful they are?”

What if????? 

I wondered if it would be possible to change the culture of congress by encouraging senators and representatives to find and focus on each other’s strengths and abilities.  Could town officials take some time to uncover the best in each other before addressing the issues of town government?  Could boards of directors increase their effectiveness if they took time to recognize the special gifts and attributes each member brings, adding to agendas a time for positive human interaction before the business of the day begins?   What if the halls of congress and crowded town halls and dignified board rooms were to be covered with brightly colored messages letting all who entered the room know they are honored and appreciated and loved and respected for who they are?

It was not the adults in the school who dreamed up the idea of the sticky notes.  It was the kids.  It was the kids who hand wrote the 500 messages.  It is the kids who want and need a safe and positive culture within which to learn and grow and be creative and they know what is required in order to achieve it.

We live in a culture of bullying.  So many adult models are models of the exertion of power over others without regard to the sanctity and dignity of the lives that are diminished and sometimes destroyed by adult bullying.  It gets cloaked in a respectability of sorts - - we shrug our shoulders and say “That’s politics!”  and the damage continues.  Bullying does violence.  It does violence to the bullied.  It does violence to the bully.  It seeks to control. It shames. It destroys the soul.  It is a spiritual travesty.

If young school children know how harmful it is - -and can decide to do something to change their immediate culture, what are the possibilities for some visionary adults to do the same?  Maybe it’s time to follow the sticky notes.
Vicky Hanjian

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