Yesterday was Remembrance Day, a chance to remember those who have fallen in service of the country and to be grateful for the freedoms we enjoy today as a result of this ultimate sacrifice.
Beverly and I spent Remembrance Day morning at Bishops Cannings School where we met a woman who lives every day with an attitude of gratitude. It was an eye-opening experience to see her interactions with the students, and anyone who has ever struggled to hold the attention of a handful of children, let alone an entire roomful of them, would be amazed at the respect she garners.
The transformation began the moment Manuela Wahnon walked through the door of the auditorium. Bright and bold, she grabbed the attention of the children from the start and they were rapt throughout each 30 minute assembly. The first was about litter and it was encouraging to hear the young students shout in unison that rubbish belonged in a bin. The look of horror on their faces when Manuela dumped rubbish on the floor was priceless, and the ensuing rush to pick up the litter and dispose of it properly gave me hope that we wouldn’t have to worry about this group littering in the future.
The second assembly was to the older children and it dealt with bullying. Despite the difference in ages and the potentially sensitive topic, Manuela continued to work her magic and the students showed a remarkable grasp of the subject. One of the reasons Manuela is so effective is that she encourages the children to think through the problem and come up with their own answers. Another key part of Manuela’s work involves prizes donated by members of the community, and this positive reinforcement saw all of the children get involved as they tried to earn one. Even those who went away empty handed were buoyed by Manuela’s reminder: they were all winners.
Personally, I would love to see Manuela’s anti-litter message brought into every school in the country, but I will settle for Chippenham for the time being. In addition to bullying, she also talks about respect and living with an attitude of gratitude, and I would imagine that these would also have an enormous impact on the mindset of the next generation.
I strongly suggest that head teachers, school governors, teachers, youth leaders, and basically anyone who works with children check out Manuela’s website and blog. Please do consider inviting her to speak to your students – in addition to a litter-free community, an attitude of gratitude is something we should all strive to cultivate in our lives.
Beverly, Manuela, and Elaine at Bishops Cannings School.