A few months ago I found a big wrinkled piece of paper in my mailbox with a list of names, written in red marker. It was a petition from a group of 3rd and 4th graders asking that the school change its policy which prohibits Pokemon/Yugioh cards (and other similar games).
I love getting petitions or suggestions from students. It gives me, and the whole staff, a chance to hear their issues, consider their perspective, and sometimes make changes because of it. In this case, here is what we did:
Listening to Students, the Quaker Process
I met with the students and shared that at our Quaker school, petitions aren’t the process we use to effect change, and said I would meet with them to discuss the topic
We had a meeting, during recess time, with about 15 students participating. At the meeting I shared the origins of the “No Pokémon/Magic/etc. cards” policy, which has to do with three areas of concern:
- the violent nature of the cards
- the issue of access and some kids not having any cards
- toys from home can be distracting and get lost/stolen/misplaced/damaged causing severe distress
Students shared their thinking about how to deal with these concerns:
- they would leave the really violent ones at home
- they could share their cards or some kids could make their own
- they wouldn’t be upset if their cards got lost
I said I would take this to the whole faculty to think about.
At a faculty meeting, we spent about 20 minutes discussing Pokémon-type cards. In the end, we decided that we were still opposed to students regularly bringing these cards to school for the same reasons we have always prohibited them, but that we could meet their requests in some ways through:
- allowing students in 3rd and 4th grade to bring in a modified (non-violent) set of cards on specific days to play during a designated time or open lab option
- allowing students to make their own cards
- having a classroom set that all kids could use during designated times
Other topics staff discussed stemming from this conversation included:
- Is there a difference between how we respond to “boy” and “girl” toys from home? Should there be?
- How can we take a natural interest in the hobby of “collecting,” that many people have, and at the same time, reflect in it in light of our values, such as simplicity?
This week I will share with the students who met with me the outcome of the staff conversation. This is one example of taking students seriously, and listening to them. Their request, and the conversations that followed, helped us to reflect on our values and practices and to underscore what we believe at FSM.
Thank you 3rd and 4th graders!
– Lili, Head of School