As a young child, I experienced those to-be-expected and often humorous misunderstandings of common English phrases. Daily grace involved, “Lettuce thank him for our food” and the alphabet included, “Ellen Elmo Pea.” Perhaps the most memorable was my heartfelt singing of the national anthem when I proudly pledged, with full musical force, to “stand on guard for trees.”
Standing on guard for trees took on new meaning today in Chapel as our grade five and six classes thoughtfully and bravely raised our school’s environmental awareness. More than a simple presentation, in fact, the students put forward a bold challenge to our community to rethink everyday behaviours and recognize the impact we have on our environment.
Did you know that take-out coffee cups are not recyclable? Did you know that more than 1,000,000 coffee cups are sent to landfills from Toronto each day? Our youngest students know this (and many other important facts) and urged our school community to change its ways.
Changing behaviours is never an easy thing. Some people change behaviour only when mandated to do so upon threat of punishment (i.e., the “stick”), while others change when provided with an incentive or a reason that shows benefit (i.e., the “carrot”). Regardless, change is difficult to sustain, particularly when the alternative feels like an inconvenience. Asking someone to break a familiar and comfortable habit is tough. It’s easy to rationalize away non-compliance by believing that our one single action surely can’t mean that much in the grand scale of things.
If I’ve learned anything in my years in schools, it’s that children pay very close attention to what we do. I like to tell myself as an educator (and as a parent) that my words are listened to with rapt attention but, in reality, my actions hold much more weight. So as I stare at the gauntlet thrown down by our youngest Trafalgar girls, I recognize the importance of what happens next.
I am a reluctant environmentalist. I say that somewhat sheepishly knowing as Head of School I should be leading the change. But I acknowledge the struggle of adding “one more thing” to an already taxing “to do” list of daily life. I sometimes forget to bring bags to Farm Boy on a Saturday morning; I have been known to drive through Tim Horton’s without my own travel mug; and, I’ve occasionally left a light on in a room thinking I’d be back momentarily, only to return an hour later to face an accusatory glowing bulb. Despite my shortcomings, I acknowledge the importance of trying, and I believe in ongoing improvement.
I am 100% committed to supporting our students in their desire to make our school a better place – a model of environmental responsibility. It is my hope our entire community will provide that same support. It’s hard to see the impact of our actions when the outcome is far away (the girls and I talked about how different our garbage habits might be if the landfill were next to our soccer field). However, we are faced with an undeniable environmental imperative that must be acknowledged, and a heartfelt desire on the part of our students to protect their world. So I urge the entire Trafalgar community to join together, support our school’s efforts, and stand on guard for trees!