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The Golden Rule – by Erin Daunic, Director of Development


It sounds so simple: treat other as you would like to be treated.  Period.  However, as is so often true, what appears to be simple can quickly become burdened by complications.  As an almost-40-year old woman, I remember VIVIDLY those adults in my life who treated me with respect and consideration.  I remember the overwhelming sense of connection and acceptance when I was spoken to with kindness – when I knew I had been heard.  As a mother, I must admit, I do not always adhere to this rule.  I forget to take time to listen, to hear my own children. I lose my patience and get in a rush about life.  And, quite frankly, it makes me feel gross about myself.  Children have so much to say.


I had the tremendous fortune to work for a high school specifically for high school students in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction.  These young people had been through some very dark and bottomless experiences before they landed at this school.  And, rather than shame or dismiss or overlook them, we as a staff listened to each of them and we valued their perspectives. We looked to them when starting a new school policy or new school norm.  They had a say in the structure of their day.  Suddenly, students formally frustrated and oppositional about school, asked to have the summer break shortened.  They wanted to come to school (even on bad days).  They felt connected. 

Today, I was reminded about how truly simple it is to make serious change, to really impact and to empower a young person to succeed and thrive.  I attended the National Center for Youth Issues TENNESSEE SCHOOL COUNSELOR AND ADMINISTRATOR LEADERSHIP INSTITUTE held at the Murfreesboro Convention Center.  There, I met a group of adults (Janie Barnes, Wendell Smith, Jack Barnes, and consultant Bill Preble) who have dedicated the past seven years to transforming a formally divided and racially charged school district in East Tennessee, the Sullivan Department of Education, into one of unity and acceptance.  Their goal is to create a safe and harassment free school environment for students, faculty and staff in order to reach full academic, cultural and social potential.  Clearly, this transformation has taken time, intentionality, unity, cohesion and fractions.  But, what has anchored its success to date is this: They started treating their students as they would want to be treated.  They took time to listen, to hear, to validate, to counterpoint in order to make change.

I came home from work today with a reawakened level of appreciation for my own children.  I need to stop being in such a rush about life.  Real change happens when respect and kindness and dedication are all at play together – fairly and with no name-calling.  Adults forget to listen to  the “ahh, the kids these days.”  The reality is, kids these days have much to say …. and to teach.

STARS is deeply committed to creating a culture and work space that centers on the power of relationships, that values diversity of perspective and experience, and that honors the dignity, worth, and contributions of all.