Conversation Starters: A Discussion About Decency

One way to focus a conversation is to ask participants to discuss in depth one of the Nine Common Principles as it relates to their school. Principal Neil Culhane of Avon High School in Avon, Connecticut asked his staff to read a recent issue of HORACE that focused on the principle of decency (Volume 7, No. 4), and to talk with each other about the following questions:

  • How do we define decency? Is decency a minimum of an expectation, or should we expect a higher standard?
  • How does our school, or your classroom, demonstrate the principle of decency?
  • Is having high expectations a sign of respect or an imposition and/or a cause of unnecessary pressure? How do you distinguish between the two? When does high expectation cross the line and become unnecessary pressure?
  • The article describes a “last chance” school effort where teachers pay home visits to students. What is your response to this? Would you do this? Is this going beyond the call of duty?
  • The article states, “The best teachers are learners themselves” (page 4). Do you agree with this? What have you learned from your students this year?
  • The issue of tests and grading is raised (page 4). There’s an example of students collaborating on tests. What is your reaction to this? Is this “legalized cheating”? What is the purpose of tests? Is a score the only indicator of learning? What else would or could you consider as mastery of learning?
  • If you were limited to having only three rules for the entire school (faculty, students, and all staff) to follow, what would they be? What would the consequences be for any infractions of the rules?
  • Could our school initiate a plan so that every single student received some form of positive recognition? Is this type of plan necessary? Feasible? What do you envision it to be?
  • “Conditions in our society have changed to the point where the very norms of respect have altered,” Pat Wasley states in the article. Do you agree or disagree? What conditions do you think she is referring to? Can or should teachers do anything about the “changed conditions”?