At ICHK Secondary, as in any school, we find student culture shifting constantly, with new and exotic behaviours bubbling to the surface in a steady stream. Given a broad and contemporary diet of influences, including families, peers, mainstream media, social media, Internet memes and more, it is not surprising to see a blend of positive and negative behaviours emerging over time.

Given the recent revelations around Harvey Weinstein, and Hollywood’s long-standing endorsement of and tolerance for misogyny and sexual harassment, it was not at all surprising that students started to engage with such issues themselves. Without going into detail, we ended up with a situation where one party of students inadvertently offended others within the community, which was then interpreted within the light of our wider social situation. The result was a feeling of hurt, where none had been intended, but where it might reasonably be justified.

What played out between students and staff around this theme ultimately provided a very interesting case study of how we respond to each other, and the role that a strong school culture, based on adult-adult transactions, can play in shaping our lived experience. In the end, a possibly disruptive episode passed relatively painlessly, where it might elsewhere have spiraled beyond of control.

After a range of conversations and an assembly, the following email was sent by our Head of School, Toby Newton, to all students. I’ve chosen to share this email (with Toby’s blessing) as it struck me as a clear reflection of the culture that has been purposefully developed at ICHK, stemming from our 5+1 Model, around engaging in adult-adult conversations in which all parties are treated with respect and sensitivity. Hopefully, in reading the email, you can get a sense of the kind of school ICHK is, and how this model might be applied more generally in our lives.

The email ties in consistently with the story we have developed around Human Technologies, which asks us to constantly consider that we deploy technologies throughout our lives, and that we ought to do so with thought and sensitivity. In this case it is the cognitive and social technology of language on which we are focused, but this lens can be applied meaningfully to a wide range of human contexts.

Image credit: speech bubble thumbnail from Pixabay, under public domain