Reporting out about week one
Written on 9/15 and 16, 2007

I’ve now met with each of the middle school PE classes once and one, twice and have been impressed by the intelligence of the students, their willingness to participate in this project and the help and support I’ve received from your PE Teachers.

In the first week through stories, exercises and discussion we covered the following topics:
- Teasing
- Gossiping and passing rumors
- Embarrassment
- Supporting and celebrating diversity
- The role of the ‘witness’

The idea for the first week was, through stories, exercises and discussions, to introduce students to some of their shared personal and psychological issues so that they would:
- Understand their shared experiences and needs
- Recognize that they are part of a community
- Be able to discuss those issues with each other
- Create a shared language for that discussion
- Think creatively about how to solve and/or deal with shared issues

Some of the ways they considered addressing their issues were:
1. A mix-up day where students are asked to sit according to last names or birthdays, rather than who they always sit with ordinarily
2. A ‘family swap’ where students trade houses for a day
3. An on-line help line for students to write in if they have a problem
4. A box where students can write down a problem and have it attended to, anonymously
5. A ‘teaching day’, where students share something they know
6. An international day where students and parents share about their nation of origin
7. “I call five’, where a witness to bullying, arguing or teasing can call out ‘I call five’ if they think that things are escalating, forcing the others to count to five and to momentarily distance themselves from the heat of the conflict
8. Buddy system with older kids who would be available to talk with
9. Signs saying ‘The Gossip Stops Here’
10. A day of skits where students act out their or each other’s ‘most embarrassing moments’

Session 2 Possibilities

The following are stories I might tell in the second session with the discussion topic that would follow:
- Cooperating Birds: Cooperation
- Heaven and Hell: Cooperation
- Tickle Karate: Bullying:
- Stubborn roommates: Mutual Responsibilities
- Bee Sting: Holding on to things and forgiveness
- King and His Worries: Fear breeding what it fears
- Palisades Amusement Park: Confidence in one’s background
- World’ Fair: Local racism: What’s national is local
- Sugar in the Milk: The potential benefits from meeting new people

Other issues to be addressed in the second session: listening skills, know that you don’t know it all, the benefits of different opinions.

We will meet this week with teachers, parents and with the ‘Congress’ of students on the 20th. (Please check with Dr. Sirotin or Ms. Coyle for exact times and locations). During the ‘Congress’, representatives from each class will meet to go over suggestions and come up with a plan to help students ‘get along’ and to feel comfortable and supported.

How these sessions fit into Global Citizenship
- Global Citizenship is the understanding that ultimately, the happiness and health of one is dependent upon the happiness and health of all and that we posses the power to act and to organize our world accordingly. As I planned for this work, I asked myself the following questions:
- How can students internalize this understanding thereby making it more intrinsic, rather than extrinsic in its derivation?
- How can I make this idea less conceptual and more ‘real’?
- How can students acquire the confidence and skill to put these ideas into practice?

By starting on a local/school level to articulate and plan for the culture and atmosphere students want to be part of it would immediately get their attention. I hoped that students would realize that a school’s culture needs to be caring, supportive, safe, understanding and fun for all to flourish and that they have the ability to create what they collectively need.

Social skills needed:
The ability to think about and to articulate problems and difficulties in creating this type of community (i.e. Teasing, Bullying, Passive Witnessing, Gossip, Rumors, Prejudice, Arrogance)
b. The ability to deal with the above in ways that reinforce the ‘ideal’ while realizing that we are not ‘perfect’
c. The skills for working collectively:
- Consensus building

- Listening skills
- Understanding one’s responsibility to disagree and to disagree respectfully
- Understand that no one has all the answers
- Humor
- Confidence to speak and to express one’s ideas,
- Understand how to advocate for cause and/or a position by mobilizing human and financial resources
- Understanding how to take advantage of other’s skills and attributes even when not socially connected
- Ability to prepare for the future even as it’s understand that everything can’t be fully predicted and the
- Ability to create activities appropriate to a goal

How the above spirals:
The skills articulated above are, in my opinion, some of the foundational skills students need to assess, research and to act collectively on the local/national/global environments. These skills would be needed in any agreed upon social activity and are skills that continually reinforce the understanding of how one’s needs are linked to the needs of others. By beginning this foundation building within their immediate environment and concerns we work from the student’s immediate interests and concerns and lay the groundwork for future activity. It is one or two steps on a staircase towards Global Citizenry.

How this understanding leads outwards or upwards into the community and the world is mutually dependent upon adult (Administration, Teacher, Parent) and student input. For instance, if students and teachers decide that one way they can create and reinforce respect for diverse skills and interests is to create a community based project of some kind they could both introduce some possible ideas. By venturing out into the world, students should be encouraged by adults to ask questions about what are experiencing as well as what their participation, if any, might be. It is also important that when students venture out into the community they are encouraged to make connections between what they find in the ‘world’ and with their own lives so that idea of ‘mutuality of interest’ or the ‘real life’ links between the individual and the rest of world is reinforced.

What are some activities that can be taken? In some ways it really doesn't matter, although it is easier if you have ‘buy-in’ from the beginning. You and they just must choose activities that can stimulate interest and curiosity and can lead to some sort of activity/presentation/action. There simply just has to be opportunities for reinforcing Blake’s understanding that ‘The universe is in a grain of sand’. I call this ‘Site Specific Education’. Activities could include:
1. Looking at the local pubic transportation network and studying the building of the Metro
2. Looking at the how real estate values are changing and shifting in certain neighborhoods
3. Taking trips to the old market areas and to a mall to look at how commerce is changing
4. Studying air and water quality in Delhi
5. Looking at how others have solved conflict currently and in the past, making sure that moral and ethical dilemmas are available to ‘chew-on’. Perhaps it might even be possible to bring in diplomats from different countries who are or have been in opposition to each other and let them express their opinions
6. Studying local wildlife
7. Studying older ‘civilizations’ still in evidence in Delhi and look for clues for how they lived, what is still left of their contributions and why they became less formidable over time.
8. Looking at the food served in the cafeteria and looking at where it comes from, how it’s grown, who cooked it and how it reflects the culture within which it was prepared
9. On trips up north, passing damns along the way, looking at energy in general and the effect of and arguments for and against damns in particular
10. Take trips to various local NGO’s to see what they do and how students can be involved.

These are just a few suggestions for reaching out beyond the school. They are all activities where multidisciplinary study can be encouraged, where sources of information and inspiration are easily available and where presentation and activity can be for ‘real world’ reasons. Importantly as well, these activities can reinforce and build upon the intellectual and social foundations that have been and are continually being understood by the students in their initial work towards creating strategies for constructing the values for their shared community.

Ways to Get Along and Grow

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