We have focused on connecting as much as possible this year–outside of school through our wonderful Skype chats–and inside our school across the grades. I work in a small school of about 600 students, ranging in ages from 3-19. Even though we connect globally, I didn’t want to lose sight of our local connections.
It started last month when one of the teachers, who teaches the Theory of Knowledge class at our school (11th grade students), expressed interest in one of our units about beliefs. Her students came in and had a discussion about beliefs with our students. They sat in small groups and talked about beliefs and differences, and my students, with confidence, led the discussion. It was an amazing connection.
This time, we invited the class back to try to work out a conflict scenario. We thought it would be good to hear different-age perspectives on a scenario about something that could happen at school. The scenario was about someone being accused of cheating and then someone starting rumors.
The 11th grade students led the discussion this time, and they really acted like the older and wiser ones. They had been in similar situations, they said, and they could relate.
My students looked at the students with awe as they spoke and really listened. I listened to the 11th graders words of wisdom:
- You’ve got to calm down after a conflict before you try to work it out. The boys in the conflict were still too angry, so they couldn’t work it out.
- Ignoring it won’t necessarily help because you have a reputation to uphold.
- You’ve got to say sorry at some point. Everyone has to say sorry.
- It’s hard to forgive people when they’ve done something wrong–especially if they don’t recognize it–but you have to. We live in a society, and we have to live together. We have to forgive.
Wow, I thought, after that last comment. I need to hear that advice myself. The 11th graders thought that adults aren’t always the best role models while the 5th graders still want to tell the teacher and hope they will work out their problems. The 11th graders recognized that conflicts are going to happen, and the 5th graders are just learning that, and that things aren’t as simple as they seem.
I think we all learned a lot from our discussion. Afterward, when I asked students if they would rather talk to a high school student or the counselor if they had a problem with friends, they almost all said quickly: the high school student.
Peer mentoring, I think, might be a next step…