Financial Slavery

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Getting Ready for Week Two of Our Year of Respect

Well, I've received some of the student reflections from the first week of the anti-bullying workshops I led in the US 1 History classes I led in the beginning of October.  I think we have a lot of work to do.  How do we create empathy in our young people when so little of it is demonstrated and modeled in the real world?  I was particularly struck by one young man:
"Bullying for me was a social-structuralizing activity that helped me grow as a person.  It taught me about morals and compassion.  There will always be bad in this world.  But that's part of growing up.  It teaches you to stop being such a close-minded pansy and work things out for yourself.  It prepares you for the real world.  But if it's a situation that you ABSOLUTELY can't do anything about, then obviously tell an adult.  (i.e. can't get out of the house, hospitalized many times, things are stolen.)"
So, for this young man, things have to escalate to MULTIPLE hospitalizations to be deemed serious enough to warrant outside intervention.  How do we reach young people who believe it is a sign of weakness to ask for assistance?  Or that it is "being a snitch" to let people know what is going on in others' lives?  Many students feel (and adults I've discovered) that we really need to "mind our own business" and the world will be a better place.  I ponder this concept.  Should the world have minded its own business during Bosnia?  During Rwanda? (Oh, wait, we did.)  How about World War II and the Holocaust?  At what level does the human cost become high enough to warrant our attention?  Is it only upon death?  Or is the despair, loneliness, unhappiness of children enough to catch our eye?  Perhaps I am a hopeless optimist who still believes that one individual can make a difference.  But I wonder...  are we starting to ingrain in our young people such a "me" mentality that they can no longer see anyone's pain but their own?

Not all reflections were this down heartening, please don't misunderstand.  A couple more uplifting ones included:
"The best part of the workshop was the video.  The video contained students from the high school and their words were very powerful.  It really touched my heart and the video was just great.  We students got to understand the teacher perspective on bullying.  Students and teachers got to connect about the bullying.  I learned about bullying that it can start online and in texts."
"It seems like there are never nice words said in our high school.  I learned a lot, especially after the video rap.  People really get hurt from mean words."
So, clearly the workshop connected with many of them.  Most students wrote about the workshops being valuable and meaningful.  So, why do I find myself obsessing about the ones I didn't reach?  I know going in I won't reach them all.  But I find it disheartening to see such cynicism in fourteen year olds.  I can't understand where it finds its roots and growth.  Again, that hopeless idealist in me still wants to believe that young people can find hope and change the future.  I continue to think about how to push them further during the next session, to get them to dig deeper and take the next steps.  I know I have a year for this and I must take one plateau at a time.  But it is an interesting journey when you see these young people once a month and that's all.  So different from my regular students who I see every day, all year long.  There the relationship builds and solidifies and takes roots on trust and respect.  It is a bigger challenge with this program.

I find myself both apprehensive and excited to go back in two weeks to do session two with these students.  Where will we be come May?  Will some of their actions reflect their words?  Will we see a meaningful difference in our school? 

If anyone has ideas and suggestions for additional activities going forward, please feel free to comment.  I look forward to connecting with people. 

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