Monday, April 20, 2009

The power of words

This week our co-op took time out to discuss some difficult issues. We did this within age-separated classes so we could be age appropriate in our discussions. The topics stemmed from mean comments on our private site for them and then a recent child suicide. The child was known to one of our families and only almost 12.
In our Little Flowers class I let them make construction paper flowers while directing a discussion about how we show virtues to others we see in a way that helps them gain the virtue. I found it helpful to write down for the girls specific places like home, church, class and neighborhood. I worked with them till we were very specific: Saying a Rosary can be out of Faith but may not show Faith to another. Saying, "Let's try again," and writing JMJ on the top of the science lab paper might show Faith to your partner.
I was far more direct to my teens in writing class. I have watched this group grow up. They were between 3 and 6 when the Columbine shootings happened 10 years ago today. They were innocent and oblivious. Now they are becoming young men and women and suffering all the ails of adolescence.
I began with a list of literature that allows great character study, the name of yesterday's feast: Divine Mercy, and the name of our class: writing. I told them I would have failed if I did not, over the year, help them to grow in their ability to communicate their Faith and hope well. I told them why we were doing this talk, talked about the young man and his despair. "We won't let this pass without talking to you about it because you are too precious to us." (I didn't lose it.)
We discussed the vocabulary of despair: depression, compassion, mercy. Had I told my son before that despair is losing faith that God could solve your problems or heal you? I can't remember. But today it happened.

And I meant what I said my beloved young friends:

All of us in this co-op are here for you if you need to talk: your parents, teachers, friends, Fr. Marek, Fr. Henry. and that if God can fix me--- He can fix anything!

I am so proud of all of you for handling the discussion with maturity and open hearts. You are a real blessing to me and your parents.

Mrs. B


SAHMinIL said...

I feel for your co-op especially those that knew the boy who died. You are so right when you say that the young ones should always feel welcomed to talk to an adult. I try telling my kiddos the same thing all the time. God Bless

mary said...

Mary you are so on the "nose" to let the students know that there is always someone to talk to who can help them. I tell my students that they should have a list of 5 people they can call when they're in a situation that they need help with & that their list doens't need to have their parents on it but it needs to have one trusted adult who can help guide them in their decision making. While not having a parent on list might anger some people, I do encourage the students to open that dialog with their parents so that communication is happening.

I wanted to address the "mean" comments....I was recently at our local high school's very first ever varsity lacrosse game. We lost 15-5. I was standing next to some parents who's sons were playing for our team. Those parents had nothing but negative comments to make about our goalie. He could hear them & it was frustrating for him. I called to him after each missed goal that it was okay and that he was doing a good job (it's got to be tough to go from club play to varsity play). Apparently their parents never taught them that if they had nothing nice to say to say nothing at all; or that if you're going to say something in public you never know who's standing around & listening. Some skiing parents learned this first hand at a race as they critiqued E's racing prior to her run while Matt & I were standing just a few feet down hill from them....prior to her run her weekend coaches joined us (these parents knew the coaches) and we cheered her as she went should have seen the look on their faces-PRICELESS! They quickly walked downhill and totally avoided any sort of eye contact with us when we joined them all later because E was introducing us to her teammates which was their children.

I'm sorry this is such a long comment but once I started I couldn't stop.

Mary B said...

I understand Mary! My mother would not have tollerated such comments-- but would still have reminded us this was life-- she's no wimp. We must have a better level of communication in this world.