Whenever I’m involved in something truly remarkable I get chills. Literally. I tend to feel them moving up and down my body at some pivotal, transformative moment with others. This kind of moment occurred during the final session of a four-week Bullying Buster workshop series with an exceptional grade 5 class – a class brave enough to shine a lens on themselves, and on their behaviour.
The chills came when the students expressed that it was if a dark cloud had lifted off of them and that they were all getting along better on the playground. Over the course of our workshops together we sorted through, without shame, what was really going on on the playground. With courage and accountability we allowed the truth to surface. Then, we deconstructed each hurtful scenario to figure out why it is we behave the way we do, and how we can effectively change in the future. They all yearned for this change because they knew, deep down, that when someone is being hurt, they are all being hurt. One of my main messages is always how we, as humans, need community and that when it comes down to it, it’s our connections that make us feel like life is worth living. In fact, being immersed in a nurturing community actually improves overall health and increases longevity. So, it’s a pretty easy buy-in.
At this Vancouver Catholic school the principal took charge and actually jumped to action by hiring me, which is quite noble. She told me how kids were going home upset – they weren’t comfortable with, more than anything, the information being shared on the playground. Sexual slurs and swearing and an attitude ill befitting ten-year-olds was becoming commonplace. Yet, who could blame this young generation? The information’s out there and they’re just passing it on, testing the boundaries. Well, I reminded them of the simple fact that they are too young to handle this information effectively and that if they really look inside they would admit how confusing it all is, and even upsetting. So, they decided that this nasty talk had to stop and that they would do their best to repair their group’s social climate.
This special class got the message through acting exercises, journal writing and discussions along with their exceptional teacher’s supporting curriculum on empathy, peace and reconciliation. They now understood that being inclusive by raising people up, rather than pushing them down, was the path to health and happiness. They got it! And so, as I do – I got chills.
If you know of a class that is experiencing some unhealthy social practices then contact us. Kids cannot learn when they don’t feel safe.