In the final weeks of my first year of college, rumour had it that the college were planning to drastically change the timetables for students. On inquiry, I found this to be true. The principal and board staff had made no official announcement, and had apparently asked a (very) small handful of students and teachers what they thought and then decided that their decision was set. This, I discovered, meant that there would no longer be a standard allotted time for students to meet and have their lunch in the middle of the day, and on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, the day would finish later, meaning we would get stuck in a great deal more traffic, and many students would be getting a late train and wouldn’t be home till about 6!
I was quite miffed. One of my teachers was also very miffed. And a lot of students were miffed when they found out!
I decided to gather signatures from students in a student petition so that the board staff could see how the changes would affect us. Before I did this I had noticed that a lot of students, whilst being miffed, were “riled” and I was a bit worried that they’d start striking like many did earlier in the year when it was said that EMA (payment to help students afford college) would stop due to government cuts. When I got the signatures I was happy to find that, whilst very irritated by the proposed changes, students were all for peacefully showing board staff what they thought in the hope that they would change their minds.
I sent a letter to the board staff and had a few discussions with the head of my college campus. She was nice, and was genuinely surprised by the opposition and upset. However my efforts appeared to be fruitless, as the board staff didn’t officially inform the students of the changes (as they had promised) before the summer holidays and they “stuck to their guns.”
I, true to my word, left it alone at the end of the year. Now, by the end of the first term of the second year, hundreds of students and most of the staff (unbeknownst to me) had complained and no-one was very happy. It was with delight that I discovered that the staff have now agreed to revert some of their changes, with a suggestion to the first years that the timetable will next year be as it was in my first year.
The head of my campus burst out laughing when she saw me, and was happy to admit that they had, perhaps, been wrong. I’m still (just about) managing to resist the urge to say “I told you so.” Been grinning for the last fortnight though!
So why am I sharing this with you?
Not because I want to rub in the fact they “they” were wrong and “we” were right. But simply because we’ve all learned something through this. Peacefully, we wrote a letter and signed our names to show what we thought. The first years asked for a standard lunchtime. We didn’t “rebel” like a great deal of the population seem to expect us to as “teenagers”. And the teachers, adults who many of us have also wrongly stereotyped, have admitted that they were wrong, apologised, and are willing to change.
I’m grinning, but I’m also smiling a great deal from the progress that we’ve made as a community. A great deal of good comes from people coming together and actually discussing something, rather than shouting pointlessly and finishing the conversation with a “I’m more powerful therefore I’m right” statement. We need to learn to stop trying to be “imperators” (power hungry aggressors) and start being a lot more open to listening to one another, to sharing with one another, to acknowledging one another as equal human beings.
Marple college is a long way from being a perfectly peaceful community, as all(?) colleges are! But we’ve taken a big step in the last few months. Now for the wider world?… 🙂
1 Corinthians 13:11 NRSV: “…Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the peace and love of God will be with you.”
(See here for an earlier post on Community which writing this has reminded me of…)