Respect is fragile and not easily come by. As we too often see in the news, respect is rare.
The basic human right of respect was penned by Thomas Jefferson 246 years ago in the Declaration of Independence when he wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Understanding that we all are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness means that we all have the same equality to these rights as our neighbor or classmate. These rights are further elevated by the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.
Unfortunately, we often see tragic events unfold before our eyes because of a lack of respect for “the other.” In New Jersey, October highlights respect for oneself and others. Within the Montville Township Public Schools, October begins with the Week of Respect, and ends with National Red Ribbon Week – where this year’s theme is: Celebrate Life. Live Drug Free.
While respect is highlighted in October, MTPS students exhibit this attribute all throughout the year. Students are encouraged to collaborate and cooperate. They are taught within the curriculum to be respectful and to not infringe upon another’s rights. Students are provided with tools to be respectful, even in discourse. When there is conflict, it is often worked out between the students involved. If needed, the added assistance of an adult is enlisted to help resolve disagreement.
MTPS is a nationally recognized District of Character and within each of our schools respect is exhibited, reinforced, and acknowledged each day.
A Dot of Kindness...
At Cedar Hill Elementary, all classes began the year in Karen Stephens’ art class with a collaborative multicolored dot project displayed in the front hallway. The theme was inspired by the popular book entitled “The Dot,” which is an endearing story of encouragement between an art teacher and one of her students. The student in the story goes on to show kindness to her peers. They, in turn, show kindness, and kindness spreads throughout the community.
STEM-ing from Strengths...
Fifth graders at Valley View Elementary participated in activities that developed communication and teamwork by solving a series of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) problems such as designing a strong structure using only marshmallows and toothpicks. The student teams practiced patience and cooperation while learning the value of persistence, and supporting each other’s strengths, in meeting those challenges.
Tools for Solutions...
Over the summer, William Mason Elementary art teacher, Andria Navarra, added a special touch to the playground by painting a problem-solving wheel of choices for students to utilize during recess to help them develop their friendships and practice problem-solving strategies.
Encouragement & Compassion...
At Hilldale Elementary teachers taught Character Education lessons with the primary focus on kindness, and respect for others.
Care for Self & Others...
Woodmont Elementary students led positive daily readings over the public address system. Additionally, school counselor, Douglas Stech, conducted classroom lessons with the theme of self-respect and respect for others.
Selfies & Manners...
Robert R. Lazar Middle School students practiced good manners and respect towards others by taking selfies that demonstrated respect for themselves, others, and the community. These pictures were shared with the school. Students were also encouraged to hold the doors for others, and say “please” and “thank you.” Some faculty and staff also wore t-shirts displaying the philosophy: “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.”
Montville Township High School students and faculty supported Breast Cancer Awareness and created a stronger sense of community and school spirit by partnering with the Montville Athletic Boosters and the PTC to run a pink apparel fundraiser. The collaborative effort was a huge success and pink apparel has been seen at events all month.
Respect in the MTPS district does not begin and end in October. It does not start at the top of the school day and end as the last student departs the building. The above activities and more are woven into lesson plans and activities each day.
Respect can be shown in so many ways. Typically, it appears in the small things. True character is revealed when no one is watching. Respect, kindness, and cooperation are attributes and skills that are taught at school, home, religious centers, and in the community. Parents, teachers, religious leaders, coaches, and mentors all play a role in raising students of character.
We currently live in a world that asks us to assess students with an annual test, and websites rank schools by a few data points. But we all know there is so much that is not measured that makes up an individual. If I was to administer a grade to the MTPS students based on the self-evident truths and inalienable human rights of respect for self and others, they would all receive an “A.”
-October 28, 2022
The "Superintendent's Column,"
by Dr. Thomas A. Gorman also appears in
"The Citizen" newspaper and on-line at "MontvilleTAP"