“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Every community has expectations about how its members should speak and act. Sometimes these are unspoken and implied, but often they get written into a code of conduct. When we first started out we did what many schools do – we wrote out all the things the children shouldn’t do: don’t hurt each other, don’t take things that don’t belong to you, and so on. But simply saying “don’t do this” and “don’t do that” begs a question: what should one do? We realised that a code of conduct should not be mainly about misconduct, but should describe a compelling alternative – a new way to live.
About two years ago we committed this line of thinking into a written code of conduct, one that we thought envisioned a positive, biblical way of living and learning together. The children now know it off by heart, since we discuss some aspect of it every morning during breakfast. We get to call them to strive for truth and goodness and love each morning, rather than listing all the ways they could go wrong during the day.
But this approach also begs a question: should they live like this everywhere or only at school? Our older students are experiencing more and more tension between what we strive for at school and the conflict and hurt they see and sometimes experience in their neighbourhood. They will need great courage if they choose this way of life.