Friday, April 19, 2013

Faith in Humanity

at 6:47 PM
When bad things happen, especially terrible things, my mind's response is to pull away, ignore it, pretend it didn't happen, and move on with my life. I try not react. But I do. My heart aches and reels. Which is why my body's defense mechanism is to block it out.

Our history teachers scared our students by talking about North Korea in class. I had to calm them down by finding maps of how far their bombs could reach. I spent classroom time, reassuring students that our town was highly unlikely to be a target, no matter what.

With the news and social media spamming the internet with news about the Boston Bombings, I didn't want to bring about that paranoia again. However...

During the first class of the day we had some time left over, and I let the students chitchat. I overheard some conversation that took the "joking" put-downs a little too far. I remembered a video I had seen on UpWorthy and I had wanted to show my students. I pulled it up, and then proceeded to show it in every class.

After the video, I shared my thoughts with my students, and I want to share them with you, too. This is a mishmash of what I said throughout the day. I doubt I said all of it every period, but I think the message was similar.

I shared this video for two main reasons. The first is to remind you... Your words have meaning. Be careful what you say. I hear an awful lot of put-downs lately, and I know most of you think you're just joking. But I bet not all of your friends know you think you're joking. Stop those put-downs. 

The second reason is to remind you that he's RIGHT. He's SO right. If you've ever been called something by someone else, they're wrong! You are all amazing, brilliant people. You have SO much potential. You have the potential to do so much good! But that good is based on your choices. Now. 

You can choose to be leaders. Choose to show your peers the way to act. Don't put others down. Don't let your friends put others down. Stand up for them. Be amazing. 

How many of you have been following the news lately? [Hands raised. I didn't even mention what was happening more than that.] People like that don't become that way because of where they live or what religion they believe in. People do that because they are hurt. Somewhere along the way, somebody told them something mean and they believed it with their whole soul. Evil people aren't born that way. They become that way by the choices they make. 

Make good choices. Those choices start now. Don't believe when people say hurtful things about you. Don't be the person who says those mean things. 

When your friends are about to do something stupid, like starting a fight, putting people down, or pulling the fire alarm, stop them! Help them make good choices. 

My students had varying responses to the video, but every single one of them had a response. Other teachers told me students were talking about the video in their classes. Last period of the day was especially rowdy. The weather is starting to get warmer, making students hot and grumpy. Two of my students have been continuously bickering throughout the year. They were especially upset at each other today, as they were assigned to the same group. After the video, one of them was unusually silent. I made eye contact and asked if she was ok.

"Yea, I'm ok. I just... Now I feel bad!" She has no quiet voice, so the entire class can hear her. Then she turns around to the other student. "I'm so sorry for what I said today. I really am." Her apology was the most sincere set of words I've heard out of her mouth all year.

The other student's initial response to the video had been flippant, because it was expected of him. But after her apology he got very subdued, and quietly turned back to her and said, "Yea. I'm sorry, too." Again, sincerity rang through the room.

I was in complete awe.

Some days my students try me to my wits' end. Others, they fill my heart to the brink with pride and joy.



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