Following my last entry, I would like to add a few more thoughts about ways we can work together to encourage our girls to “live honorably”.
Part II: The Great Cover-up
In many of our honor or discipline cases at Harpeth Hall, it is not the action or infraction that is the worst offense. It is the cover-up. We see this situation played out in a much larger scale time and time again in the media by some notorious celebrity or politician or football coach. Thankfully, the actions which involve Harpeth Hall students are tiny in comparison to what we read in the papers, but the underlying flaw is the same.
Break a small rule, forget to do your homework, come late to school, say something you should not have said — these are not high crimes. We would like to sweep them all under the rug. The penalty for most of these infractions would only be one demerit, and in some cases, an honest explanation or apology could even do the trick. Here is the challenge though: owning the mistake. Those who do fare well in the disciplinary process. Those who don’t admit their mistakes, and instead begin a circuitous path to the truth, will get themselves into much more trouble. This scenario is where one of the most common honor offenses occurs– the cover-up.
Frankly, I expect our students to make their share of mistakes along the way and to learn from them. We do not want perfection, but we would like for them to learn how to be honest about their errors. Let’s work to create safe environments at home and at school, in which our girls can mess up, admit it, and learn from it. A gold star to the next girl who admits the error of her ways in my presence!
Part III: The Example We Set
As parents of high school girls, I believe you are doing an excellent job of raising your daughters. You are teaching your daughters how to live a life of integrity in big and small ways each day. There is nothing I have said or will say that you don’t already know. And yet, at the risk of insulting your intelligence, I have decided to give you a top 5 list of things you can do to promote “living honorably” during a fast paced school year with a sometimes challenging teenager. At first glance, these things are almost laughable because they are so obvious. However, I find that when stress and lack of time come knocking, a need for these reminders can surface quickly.
Following are some of the most powerful examples we can set:
#1 Do not lie for your daughter. Of course, no one would knowingly do that. However, I understand how tempting it is to make things a little easier for her by supplying an excuse or acceptable reason from home. Situations can become very sticky if we try to smooth the way too much.
#2 If your daughter makes a mistake or has an honor or disciplinary infraction at school, try not to fix it or change the consequences. Simply let her know you are there for her. Her work is to learn how to behave next time. Your job is to believe that she just might be guilty this time and the consequences should remain. (It does not mean you are a bad parent either.)
#3 Empower your daughter to communicate directly with a teacher about a problem or issue. Sometimes our daughters just need to vent to us, and they don’t need us to fix everything we hear.
#4 Talk to her about what she has learned or how she chose a topic for a paper, as opposed to what grade she made on the assignment. De-emphasizing an all-A report will ensure that she learns how to learn rather than learning how to score well.
#5 When others in our community are not acting honorably, try to avoid labels or continued talk about the situation. Speak of any student who makes a mistake as if you are the parent of that child. The shoe might fit one day, and it is easier to cope when we have helped to form a forgiving community.
I remain grateful to work in a school where the students choose to be honest most of the time. They are honest with themselves, their teachers, their friends and with me. We have a lot to learn from them. Our Honor system and Honor Council at Harpeth Hall are the backbone of our community, and I have learned all of these lessons from our girls.