With the New Year rapidly approaching, I am readying myself to gear up to go back to work and back to the business of preparing our new Self-Esteem piece, teching our Shakespeare show, and continuing our year-long Year of Respect curriculum with the general student population. I always ask the students in my class at the beginning of the school year to create "School Year Resolutions" - something they can do personally to make our school a better community. In addition, I ask them to practice random acts of kindness - one per week - an act for someone they don't know in our school community. Our theory being that if we all practice random acts of kindness, perhaps over time, kindness will spread. We know negativity spreads - often quickly and virally - kindness just takes longer and grows slower.
This year, I upped the ante. I've been working with the 500+ freshmen students since the fall on anti-bullying and empathy curriculum. I've been doing workshops with these young people, listening to their voices, their opinions and asking them to create scenarios and solutions to bullying they see and hear. They have been wonderfully creative in this task. They're starting to figure out that there is strength in numbers - that if more than one person stands up - they have a better chance of creating change. They've figured out that humor is a wonderful distraction - and can be a safe alternative to confrontation. They've learned that sometimes reaching out to the victim is an incredibly powerful step that has no risk to themselves - especially when they work in tandem. One group split their efforts, several worked to distract the bullies while another group led the victim away to safety and support. They are somewhat astonished with themselves. They can't believe they came up with these ideas. And although they are still not one hundred percent sold that this will work in real life, when we wrap up the workshops I often see lightbulbs in many eyes, as they contemplate their own power. It is wonderful.
As part of the latest workshop, I challenged the freshmen to two resolutions - one to take the anti-bullying pledge with us. And the other, a School Year Resolution - one act or daily decision they can do to make our high school a better place. This vision the students could see -- if ALL of them tried one thing (just one) that the school would be better by all of us.
So, I enter 2012 tired but hopeful; pulled in too many directions but ready to go on; still behind on work but willing to continue the fight. And my students -- well, they didn't even take the winter break off. They've been emailing me and texting me additional information all week for our new Self-Esteem piece. Gotta love the students. They continue to be the reason I get up in the morning, ignore the media blitz telling me what horrible people teachers are, fight stubborn and scared administrators and enter 2012 with a sense of purpose and joy.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!