But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?” In reply, Jesus said: “A man was going down to Jerusalem….”………“Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” Luke 10:29, 30a, 36.
In September, 2010, I wrote an editorial entitled “That’s not Fair!” It had to do with conflict resolution and how we as educational professionals deal with issues of fairness and justice in schools. This editorial generated more response than any other that I have written. The most common question was……are you talking about our school or our staff? Each time, I smiled and honestly could say that it was a generic piece coming from experience, stories and quite frankly guessing that all is not always well in schools. It was not meant to be judgmental but just a way of asking questions. This leads me to the point of this editorial. Learning to confront is not the same as being confrontational though people do not always separate out the difference. As your executive director….I have been told that I am a scary person and when I ask why….the answer is that I ask too many questions (now to be honest, my parents would probably agree with that comment….I have been asking questions my whole life and I hope that I have passed on that trait to my students who need to ask the essential questions of life). It has struck me lately that asking a question about why we do things the way that we do them or asking whether we might need to change things is pretty scary for those who are in the business of maintaining the status quo.
I think how we ask our questions are of paramount importance. OCSTA has been promoting restorative ways of being in our classrooms and restorative circles for our students in order for them to have a voice in
their education. Restorative practice promotes respect, honour, listening and alternate ways of solving conflict. However, restorative practice can only happen when we have the courage to confront the issues. We risk something then. We risk being told that our question has no business being asked. We risk (sometimes) peace. Although I would suggest that peace for the sake of peace is not really peace but settling. Asking questions opens up the need for a response. If we ignore issues or questions and try to sweep them under the carpet….I believe that a type of violence is done through our neglect.
Again, I believe it is of utmost importance to know HOW to ask questions and how to confront problems and to deal with them in such a way that honour and respects those to whom we are speaking. Sometimes justice and truth are used as excuses for being rude, confrontational and divisive. Unfortunately, we have many examples of this in our society: both the lack of a listening ear and good faith discussion, and the assumption that we need to be rude to have our voices heard. As we also see often, this approach builds walls rather than leveling roads to restoration.
When we learn to how to confront…..will there be instances of misunderstanding? Absolutely. Will it be easy? No. Is it necessary? Most definitely. It doesn’t help our students, colleagues and our educational communities if we don’t learn to confront constructively. Our schools and their supporting communities need to places of safety, honesty and risk-taking. I love the line in “Narnia” where Lucy states that Aslan is not a tame lion…he is scary. When we dare to speak the truth in love, we become scary too.
Jesus told the story of the Samaritan and then asked the expert in the law a question that demanded an answer…..“Who do you think was a neighbour to the Samaritan?” It was neither a difficult question nor a
confrontational question….but it was a question that changed the legal expert’s perspective and reframed his questions.
Our questions may be “How do we treat each other?” “Can we imagine new ways for Christian education?” “What issues do we need to confront in our school community in order to further our mission and vision?” “Why do we do what we do”” Each of these questions demand a response. My question is……Are we willing to risk asking and answering them in order to continue to grow in truth and love in this enterprise of education?