“The wonderful gift I would like to receive this year for a Merry Christmas is actually not for me, but for others. It does have a cost still though. The cost is a change in the way people treat others. Instead of being rude and inconsiderate to people that they might think are weird or “different”, I wish people would be kind and accept them for who they are and maybe even realize that sometimes different is good. If people do that, the nice and heartwarming gift they will get back is a friendship – a new person to party with, do each other’s hair, share secrets, and more with.”
This wise young writer got it. The solution is so simple. So what’s the problem?
We are all familiar with it. Sadly, from time to time we hear about the effects of bullying after a tragic event – often a school shooting. The root cause of all of these tragedies is a sense of not belonging.
I remember…I went to a small Jr. high school in a small town. There was the “popular” group – girls, as is usually the case, although not always. There was one girl, Anita (not her real name) that was “the most popular” girl. She had her following; mostly her cousins and I desperately wanted to be part of the group. Through snide remarks, whisperings, and other shuns, I knew I wasn’t. I didn’t belong and they made sure I knew it. I remember…
Based on the memory of my pain, I wanted to come up with an activity that would help move my students from knowing what needs to be done to doing it. As my wise young writer had written,
“The cost is a change in the way people treat others.”
The first thing I did was to bring the subject out in the open. During the class discussion, the kids came up with the idea of interviewing other students in class that they didn’t know well, or maybe didn’t even like.
I asked them if they wanted to choose or if they wanted me to assign the interview pairs. Interestingly, all of my classes wanted me to assign the pairs. During the interviews we all agreed that we would put into practice the next piece of advise from my wise young writer.
“Instead of being rude and inconsiderate to people that they might think are weird or “different”, I wish people would be kind and accept them for who they are and maybe even realize that sometimes different is good.”
The day of the interviews had arrived. As students came into class, I could detect a tone of anticipation, nervousness…We had already brainstormed some questions that would be good starters for the interview:
- Where were you born?
- What’s your favorite food, sport, movie, TV program, etc.?
- What do you want to do when you are grown up?
Just some basic, generic questions that would get the conversations started. The students got settled for their interviews. In no time, you could see the reserved manners change to lighter, more comfortable, engaging conversation.
The overall response to the assignment was really positive. They didn’t all become great friends but there was much more interaction between all of the kids as time went on.
Call me tomorrow to say hello
Or come to me by the weeping willow
Today I think I’ll play by the lake
And maybe a sand castle I’ll make
Yesterday I flew my kite high, really high
I lost sight of it beyond the clouds in the sky
But tomorrow, my friend, I’ll play with you
Or today you may join me in everything I do.
(poem written by student)
Probably the best validation was from one of the lunch duty aides. She commented that the junior high kids really seemed to be behaving better in the cafeteria. She asked me if I had noticed any difference.
I smiled and said, “I guess they’re finally growing up.”