As many of you who are walking the restorative path will know, the emotion underpinning the research body we build our practices on is a nasty one. It’s a shame.
Helping our Teachers to understand shame, to know why we have such an emotion and to help students develop a better relationship with shame is something that serves as an awakening to many. Understanding shame equals understanding people.
The problem is that we humans tend to respond negatively to shame, not that itself shame exists.
We mess up our responses to other emotions too.
Fear is another emotion felt negatively, but we need it to stay safe. The problem is when we become too fearful of things that aren’t threats.
Anger’s design is to motivate us when something we value is threatened. Unfortunately, we increasingly see students using it when somebody cuts in line at the canteen and in adults when somebody steals two seconds of our time in traffic. Terms like “road rage” exist from the phenomena of us being unable to use anger appropriately.
I’ve lately become increasingly concerned about our relationship with the emotion of disgust. It’s a normal emotion with its origins in taste. Think about the face you pull when you’re disgusted; you’ll likely be sticking your tongue out. It’s supposed to be the face you pull when food tastes so rancid or poisonous that it might kill us.
But kids (and adults) are too easily disgusted these days. Disgusted by somebody sneezing, by somebody dressing differently, by sexual orientation, by another standing too close to us, by political persuasion, by the company another keeps or by the lunch they eat.
As much as shame, I think we need to be careful about what we’re disgusted by. And we must watch that our students aren’t becoming too quickly disgusted.
Disgust is not only the fuel of prejudice, but it’s killing our students’ natural tendencies for acceptance, kindness and tolerance.
It might also kill ours if we’re not careful.
Keep fighting that good fight,
PS. There are only a few days left to book tickets to my Darwin events next week. You can register for Restorative Classrooms, Strong Classrooms on 17 August here or The Art of School Culture Leadership on 18 August here. I hope to see you there.
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