Every few weeks it seems, we hear of a tragic shooting or a young person making an attack on someone in school. What plays out next, after authorities handle the situation and the media examines every angle, seems to be a torrent of discussion on Facebook and other media about the need for mental health intervention, gun control and a myriad of other speculations. But the one that stopped me cold was the Facebook comment, "What is going on in Colorado?!"
It's true, there have been a number of tragic events in Colorado in the past couple of years. The hostage crisis at Platte Canyon High School, The Aurora Theater Shootings, the abduction and murder of Jennifer Ridgeway, a shooting at Arapahoe High School, and recently a student at Standley Lake High School set himself on fire in the school cafeteria. Just yesterday, an eighteen-hour hostage situation in Arvada.
What IS going on in Colorado? That's too tough to answer, and since I, like most of us, am not equipped to analyze or solve it, all that's left is to put these tragedies out of mind. That is, until I read an article that came up, yet again, in my Facebook feed.
It starts out looking like any mommy blog, talking about her kid's experience with math class. But, as the mom, writer Glennon Doyle Melton, describes meeting with her son's teacher, I realized she was addressing something much more profound. Along with teaching math and reading, this teacher has a method for teaching compassion.
In conversation, it comes up that the teacher changes the classroom seating chart each week. On Fridays the students privately submit their nominations for an "exceptional citizen" from among their peers, as well as a list of four classmates they would like to sit with during the following week. These requests may or may not be honored, but the teacher considers them carefully.
"And every single Friday afternoon, after the students go home, Chase’s teacher takes out those slips of paper, places them in front of her and studies them. She looks for patterns.
Who is not getting requested by anyone else?
Who doesn’t even know who to request?
Who never gets noticed enough to be nominated?
Who had a million friends last week and none this week?
You see, Chase’s teacher is not looking for a new seating chart or “exceptional citizens.” Chase’s teacher is looking for lonely children. She’s looking for children who are struggling to connect with other children. She’s identifying the little ones who are falling through the cracks of the class’s social life. She is discovering whose gifts are going unnoticed by their peers. And she’s pinning down- right away- who’s being bullied and who is doing the bullying."
This is genius. Or as Melton puts it, "the most brilliant Love Ninja strategy".
This educator is teaching her students to care about one another, teaching them how to make friends, all the while employing a bully deterrent.
"As Chase’s teacher explained this simple, ingenious idea – I stared at her with my mouth hanging open. “How long have you been using this system?” I said.
Ever since Columbine, she said. Every single Friday afternoon since Columbine.
This brilliant woman watched Columbine knowing that ALL VIOLENCE BEGINS WITH DISCONNECTION. All outward violence begins as inner loneliness. She watched that tragedy KNOWING that children who aren’t being noticed will eventually resort to being noticed by any means necessary.
And so she decided to start fighting violence early and often, and with the world within her reach. What Chase’s teacher is doing when she sits in her empty classroom studying those lists written with shaky 11 year old hands - is SAVING LIVES. I am convinced of it. She is saving lives."
So you see, I had to share this article for the simple fact that it needs to be seen by as many eyeballs as possible. As many eyeballs that have hearts connected to them. This innovative, intuitive anti-bullying model should be employed in every grade school and middle school. It's stealthy. The kids don't know the degree of intervention. They don't even know how it is making them better citizens. Better people.
Perhaps what this teacher does can't be duplicated. I'm sure results will vary. But it's a start.