Hats are off at Shuswap Middle School.
The school recently tried a ‘hats on’ experiment, but it didn’t work out.
Principal Silke Yardley explains that when she began working at the school, she wondered about the ‘no hat’ rule. Some students were wearing hats in the hallways. Some would take them off when she passed by, some would not and would need to be gently reminded.
Yardley notes another middle school where she worked had more lenient rules regarding hats, sort of as a rite of passage from the more strict rules at elementary school.
“I brought it up as a person that’s new here. Are we okay with kids not wearing hats, or do we want to look at it?”
The discussion was taken to teachers, who then voted. The majority didn’t mind one way or another, so the change was implemented.
“What was interesting was a shift in negative behaviour that was noticed by staff in some students…,” Yardley wrote in her blog. “Not all students get edgy or have ‘attitude’ when they wear hats, but teachers were telling me that there was a change in tone in our hallways – a change in attitude and it wasn’t positive.”
A lengthy email discussion resulted among staff, so Yardley decided a hat meeting was in order. Forty of 60 teachers attended, where hats were discussed and then voted on.
The majority wanted to return to no hats, so the change was reversed.
At an assembly, one of the teachers, Aaron Smith, spoke to the students about hats.
“I teach The Pearl by John Steinbeck to my Grade 8s, and in the story, Kino, who is a poor, young Mexican fisherman, takes his ‘Great Pearl’ to the town to sell to a local pearl buyer. Before Kino enters the shop, he removes his hat out of a sign of respect, yet the pearl buyer keeps his on to conceal his emotions. I talk to my class extensively about this scene and about society’s expectations when it comes to manners and respect. To me, the expectations are still there in society.”
Yardley said the whole process turned out to be a good one.
“I thought it was not a big rule to change but it turned out it was… It was kind of a nice moment for all of us. We all agreed to support each other…,” Yardley said, noting the rule wasn’t really being followed before. “That I think is the learning. Everybody is on board now. No students have come to me and complained about that.”