I first got to know about the work of Operation Respect through my wife, Susan, a school therapist and social activist. Susan heard Peter Yarrow speak at a local public education forum and afterwards struck up a conversation with him. This conversation led Susan to invite Peter and Operation Respect to serve as a central resource for our local school, where she worked, on teacher professional development and student education geared toward improving school climate and impacting lasting school change.
When asked to serve on the board of Operation Respect, I was motivated to do so for two important reasons:
- My personal affection and respect for Peter; and
- The real sense that we had a very important cause: addressing the critical health and well being of children.
Impacting Lasting School Change
School systems are not doing nearly well enough in meeting the social-emotional needs of children. Operation Respect can serve as a catalyst for lasting school change. Our work, while addressing important issues such as bullying and dysfunctional school climates, is so much bigger. We’re a catalyst for whole child-centered education, where schools are equally meeting the academic, intellectual, and social-emotional needs of their students.
Thinking about how to positively impact and improve public education at the mega-level can seem like a massive, uphill challenge. Systemic change of entrenched public education systems seems so difficult, so daunting, so impossible.
I believe that education improves in this country child by child, classroom by classroom, school by school. It doesn’t take much more than an inspired, small group of parents, or one teacher who has the support of her administrator, to make great progress. Operation Respect is here to inspire that progress, and to provide resources for it.
School is the place where our children come to grow. I’m hopeful that more and more educators, school systems, politicians, and donors will take seriously the whole child needs of our children (which really is the same thing as taking seriously the future of this country).
We have to accept that change happens slowly and that there are no magical pills or silver bullets that will suddenly catapult the issue of improved school climate and culture to the top of the list of educational priorities.
But I know that Operation Respect and other likeminded organizations are capable of inspiring lasting school change and movement on these important issues. It takes all of us.
Larry Moses is senior philanthropic advisory and president emeritus of the Wexner Foundation.