This semester I am embarking on a new journey…a journey that in its most successful moments could lead to amazing change. Which is to say that my sights are pretty high so I’m trying to stay grounded and take it one step at a time.
What is this new journey? Well! While Brooke is in Florence Middle School doing prevention for 7 full classes (gasp!) I am working on training teachers to implement our prevention curricula, Project Empowerment. (We are both still in McCoy Elementary working with the lil ones!)
One of the teachers I work with is at Hutto Middle School. She works hard to improve her own curriculum while incorporating ours. She has completed three of the 10 lessons – respect agreement, power in personal identity, and power in society. These lessons set up the framework for the rest of the curriculum and can be enjoyable to facilitate.
Unless, of course, you get a curve ball. Which is exactly what happened. The second session is all about understanding our own power and control in situations. We use the game, Cross the Line, to start this conversation. In Cross the Line, participants are asked to stand and “cross” an imaginary line if a statement read is true for them. They can always choose to not cross and they can define the statement for themselves. For example, if I said, “Cross the line if you have a brother.” Someone might cross for having a biological brother, a half/step brother, another relative or friend who they consider a brother, etc. The game is done in silence so no one is explaining their action or calling each other out.
So! The teacher facilitates the game. The students sit down. They talk about what they had power over and what they didn’t. They talk about how people try to get more power and what ways are healthy or unhealthy. Bell rings. Class leaves. The teacher and I debrief, then high five.
Then the next day comes. And the teacher (wisely) has them write what they liked and didn’t like about the previous class. The class lists three predominant areas of dislike:
1. They said the questions were too personal.
2. They felt they HAD to cross the line if something was true for them because their teacher was asking.
3. They reported that some of the students had broken confidentiality – which was an agreement of the class.
The teacher addressed each of these in a dialogue with the students. She connected the first two points together – acknowledging that some of the questions were personal but they didn’t have to answer them. Unless, of course, they felt pressure to answer them because of the classroom setting. Which she processed with them about why these lessons weren’t like normal class – and encouraged the students to think about how they want to participate with each other and her. She shared that in the future, the students will consistently be able to determine how in depth they want to participate and never be pushed beyond their boundaries.
Then she addressed the third complaint about confidentiality. A few students voiced the opinion, “If they didn’t want people to know then they shouldn’t have crossed the line or said anything.” The teacher engaged the students in a dialogue about the reasons for confidentiality, how we feel when rumors are spread, and why it was a key component of their class. Then everyone agreed to maintain it, regardless of how small or big the information.
After the rundown of this story I asked the teacher how she felt when the students were listing their dislikes. She said, “I thought…I did what’s in the book (curriculum)! Why didn’t they like it?!”
We both laughed at this completely natural reaction! I did what I was supposed to! Don’t you like it?
What is absolutely so wonderful about this experience – and one reason I couldn’t stop grinning – is that when the lesson works – it is fantastic. But when it doesn’t work – it still provides an opportunity to learn and develop. Which is exactly what this teacher did. She let the students voice their opinions, their expectations, and their hurt. She used this to help bring the class closer together, validate her respect for them, and prompt their respect for each other.
On the journey of training teachers, I am giving this experience high marks.
Have a great day!
-Corey Ann Seldon
Sexual Violence Prevention Specialist