Proudly, every morning, FLRSD recites the pledge of allegiance. We are so blessed to live in a country where opinions are allowed, civil discourse or civil disagreeing is allowed and where the ability to express one’s beliefs is a fundamental right. We as a school district, a community, and a nation must continually teach our students the power of words and the power of social media. Power that when used effectively can elicit change and when used negatively can destroy lives. Yet what we do not focus on enough is the impact and influence Social Media can have on our own future. Few people realize the importance of the words they speak. There is almost no way to overemphasize the impact of what we say, yet most people give it almost no thought, usually speaking without thinking.
A coach I know once stated to his players “Never let a 140 character tweet, a personal rant with hateful angry messages or a picture cost you a scholarship, a job, a promotion, an acceptance into college or the military.” And, it is that focus that we must remind all our students, and occasionally each other. There are hundreds and hundreds of stories locally and nationally of the unintended damage and consequences from the emotionality of a statement someone wishes they could have taken back.
Alexi McCammond, is a talented, exceptionally bright and successful journalist who made her name as a reporter at the Washington news site Axios. At just 27 she had planned to start as the editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue which was the first step into her ascent as leader of a world renowned publication. It was a dream job that would give her clout and a substantial salary. Yet, what she did not know was the negative, hate filled tweets and social media posts she “innocently “sent out at the age of 17( yes a decade prior) as a talented, bright, successful yet impulsive naive high school student would force her to resign before she began. She has yet to find another position that is even close to what she had worked for. Jon Gruden, NFL football coach who sent “private” emails to friends, and lost 70% of his 100 million dollar contract because of what he put in those emails, also reminds us that we must teach every student the impact personally that messaging can have. This is separate from the power and destruction of hate filled, attacking messages can have on recipients, which the courts have found senders to be responsible for if something terrible were to happen.
For so many of us we were told the rhyme “sticks and stones…” and many people believed anything negative should be ignored and “forgotten about”. Yet we have each learned that words can springboard us to a better place or help bury our dreams or potentially the dreams others have. I am reminded of the story my college professor gave us as we studied the impact of words. I hope it personally does NOT resonate with you, yet I bet it will in some way as we all have heard something that impacts us.
Silenced by Words…
There is a 50 year old man named Steve who loves music yet Steve rarely plays anything he likes. He never sings loudly in the car when an old favorite comes on. Steve attends his church regularly and never sings, he just mouths the words. Steve has lived the last 40 years of his life not enjoying something he once loved. He misses it yet does not forget why he will not sing. He sees his children, wife and grandchildren sing and he struggles so much to join in- if he does.
The reason Steve has lived this way is sad but true. When Steve was 10, he was in a music class outside of school and was having the time of his life. He wasn’t a great singer but he was in the choir and he was enjoying himself, learning and growing with every note. One day, the director decided to tell Steve what she thought of his singing voice. His teacher didn’t choose words that would build and encourage Steve, rather the director used words that put Steve and his love for music in a box with a lid. From that day on, Steve turned down his volume and he has never been able to enjoy music again. The words she spoke to a 10 year old boy have echoed in his mind for 40 years and sadly the music that played so loudly within this vibrant, eager 10 year old shut down that day. Steve was silenced by words. Author unknown
Our goal is to help our students learn the habits of mind to have productive, and personal conversations where appropriate rather than confrontation and to understand the impact of how we say something! From that we will arrive at a better place.One that has built bridges rather than put up walls allowing FLRSD to continue to be the shining light and the example of how to build bridges and walk together.
I am so incredibly proud of our Principals, Assistant Principals, Faculty, Staff, Counselors, Paraprofessionals, Nurses, SRO, Special Education Staff and Schedulers, Coaches, Advisors, Library Media Staff, IT Department, Custodial, Maintenance, and Food Service staff, who along with our Central Office Administration and Staff, School Committee, First Responders, Town Officials, and Community Partners work daily to listen carefully, react with diligence and kindness and to understand that words matter. I have seen our students, our parents, and guardians as well, send positive notes of thanks and appreciation for the work our teachers/coaches/staff do for them each day and those are the rainbows they carry with them. Words lift up or tear down - WE ALWAYS HAVE A CHOICE! The aftermath is what we have no control of! Kindness does not necessitate agreement - it simply respects each person and their feelings.
May your week be filled with conversation and with kindness.
Alan Strauss, Superintendent
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