The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, February 2, 2001


Psychologist offers civility practicum

Dr. Tod Gross, a clinical psychologist with 30 years experience in counseling children, their families and their schools lived up to the title of his sermon, "Civility: The Challenge and the Hope." What he delivered at the First Religious Society on Sunday was a welcome practicum interspersed with some heartwarming anecdotes.

After noting the progress already evident at the Carlisle School, he offered an overall approach to nurturing civility that rested on four elements. First is a curriculum emphasizing character and creating a focus on civility in the school environment. This includes offering classes in such related skills as listening, conflict resolution and peer counseling. He stressed the importance of getting all the children involved, preferably in team projects that brought together kids who normally didn't socialize with one another.

Second, in his view, success "requires an internal set of standards in a community framework with both incentives and penalties." Gross felt it makes sense to have the children participate both in making the rules and prescribing the sanctions. Here too he added the caveat that the process needs to include a realistic spectrum of students, not just the ones that probably didn't need it.

A third recommendation was to get kids involved in their community. Older students should be trained to mentor younger ones who, for one reason or another, are getting into trouble. Under proper adult supervision, he has found this to be truly beneficial to both parties. Another successful program involved pairing students who wished to learn particular skills with senior citizens who possessed that knowledge or ability.

Dr. Gross' final element involved the critical role of teachers, administrators and parents as models, not only in their treatment of students, but also in their behavior toward each other. An amusing anecdote starred a principal who startled his students by regularly prowling the corridors just to spot a student performing a notably kind act and then telephoning his or her parents to report the incident.

2001 The Carlisle Mosquito