Breaking the Chains of Silence: Navigating the Perils of Niceness in Education 

Why is it so difficult for us to engage in meaningful conversations about the things that truly matter?

Have you ever found yourself trapped in the web of niceties, where important discussions are left unsaid, and the real issues are glossed over? The journey of realization is never a smooth one. It took me years, countless rounds, each more challenging than the last, to understand that being overly nice wasn’t benefiting anyone, least of all myself. We each get “wake up calls” that can feel like a slap in the face, or worse, making it abundantly clear that niceness in the face of crucial matters is a fruitless endeavor. We choose at those points to engage or not.  

It’s a common struggle and breaking free from the chains of silence is no easy feat.  

I have often asked myself, why is it so hard to talk about what truly matters, especially when it comes to the education of our children? The danger lies not just in the act of avoidance of these conversations but in the example, it sets for the next generation. When we, as educators, gloss over important discussions, we inadvertently teach our children that it’s okay to sidestep crucial issues. Now, more than ever, we need to break free from this dangerous pattern. The urgency is not just personal but societal. Our collective silence sets a precedent that seeps into the minds of the young, shaping their understanding of communication and the value of truth. 

So, what’s the remedy to break free from this cycle of niceness? We must lay down the tools of evasion and embrace open dialogue. I take inspiration from a beacon of change, my favorite school in Aotearoa, NZ, which dared to tread a different path. They embraced open dialogue and believed that positive and lasting change is achieved through collective effort, genuine connections, and a commitment to holistic values. 

In the heart of a vibrant community, a tale unfolded as nine transformative initiatives took root, breaking down both physical and metaphorical walls during transitions. The call resonated to foster genuine connections, identifying danger spots and weaving bonds that transcended conventional boundaries. 

In the pursuit of relevancy, the community embraced a paradigm shift in learning. Textbooks were set aside as real-world lessons pulsated with life beyond the classroom. The question echoed: What joint projects could breathe life into neglected corners of the community? 

A new breed of educators emerged, transcending the traditional role of instructors. These teachers became mentors who genuinely cared for their students’ well-being, forging connections beyond the curriculum. The community itself played a role in selecting these special individuals, recognizing their importance in shaping the educational landscape. 

Acknowledging that parents were not mere spectators but active partners in the educational journey, the community rallied to involve and engage them. The mantra was clear: Parents matter, and their influence was a vital force in the collective effort to educate and nurture the next generation. 

Breaking the routine, the community embarked on journeys outside the local environment every two years. These excursions broadened perspectives, fostering a global mindset. The focus shifted to understanding everyone’s role in the world and contemplating contributions that could make a difference. 

Guided by unwavering principles, the community stayed true to its Kaupapa, ensuring that values served as a compass on their educational journey. Upholding the mana, they celebrated the uniqueness of every individual, recognizing and honoring the dignity and significance each person brought to the collective tapestry. 

A commitment to holistic well-being led to a unique initiative – banning sugar and growing their own food. Nourishing not just the body but also the soul, the community cultivated a lifestyle that prioritized comprehensive well-being. 

Shifting the focus to the long game, the community embraced intergenerational education. Education was no longer seen as a sprint but a marathon spanning generations. Meetings included an extra chair, symbolizing the thoughtful consideration of the impact on seven generations to come. 

Recognizing education as a collective effort, the community understood that students, teachers, parents, and the entire community were interconnected. Together, they forged a family-like bond, united in the shared commitment to shaping a brighter and more enriching future for all. 

The moral of the story is clear: Break free from the chains of niceness. Engage in those uncomfortable conversations, because education and truth matter. By setting this example, we not only transform our own lives but also pave the way for a more meaningful and impactful education for the generations to come.