When Andrew Bott became the sixth principal in seven years at of one of the worst performing public schools in Massachusetts, he did something crazy: he fired the security staff. Ok, so before going any further, let me interrupt this story to point out that this school was not a high school, it was a K-8, elementary and middle school– yes, there were armed security staff monitoring six year olds! He did not just fire the security staff, though, he redirected those funds–and the ‘power-over’ energy they represented–into a much more creative and security building apparatus: the arts. He cleared the cobwebs out of the art and dance and music classrooms, and gave the students a gift that the others had not thought enough about: dignity.
A school where backpacks were not even allowed for fear that the students would carry in weapons, became, in the words of one journalist, “unrecognizable.” Artwork, student essays and other creative expressions now decorate the hallway. Far from “killing his career,” as he was told would happen if he took this job, Bott made one of the most meaningful moves–to himself and his community–of his life.
The secret to the school’s transformation has less to do with the person in charge of the school and more about the transformation in expectations of the students that he helped to foster. Instead of expecting, and encouraging young people to live by a violent image, his new staff encouraged the young people to express themselves creatively. And what is nonviolence, at is core, if not creative energy? Imagine the way that frustration melts away when we feel heard, seen and valued? Imagine how such an approach changes the way that an education can work. And now, imagine how to implement this idea into education across the board, adding to the mix, of course, some formal courses on nonviolence in action!
Incorporate some form of creativity into your activities today, when you are feeling violence, frustration and fear. (Hint: the nonviolent response itself can be creative!). Notice if there is something that shifts in your feelings.
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 email@example.com