Bullying was in the news again last week when prosecutors announced a plea agreement for the Massachusetts teens accused of pushing a 15-year-old to commit suicide. The case triggered a nationwide discussion from the local PTA to The White House.
All the concern has led to some broad brush ideas, including talk of criminalizing certain playground behaviors.
Instead, how about an early intervention at schools, which recognizes the dynamics within each building? Sound naive?
Every 3rd-, 4th- and 5th-grader at the school takes her class. She talks to students about the importance of being kind to each other. Kids role-play and are asked to perform “random acts of kindness” or do one nice thing for another student. She developed the curriculum, relying on guidance such as Colman McC arthy’s book ”I’d Rather Teach Peace.” (Orbis Books, 2002).
It may seem a little frothy in our teaching-to-the-test-culture, but that’s exactly the point, Ryden said. “When I looked at the curriculum, I didn’t see anything that addressed how children should treat each other.”
The Lafayette community agrees. Ryden began in 2003 as a volunteer with a mandate to introduce a conflict-resolution program. The effort morphed into a codified course for hundreds of kids, paid for with a grant from the home and school association.
This year she launched an after-school program. She said she expected about six kids to show up, but 65 did. “Kids all have the spark of kindness in them, they just need to be encouraged,” she said.
Imagine if programs like this were part of the curriculum? We all know it doesn’t seem like the time or place to suggest more programming in budget-crunched schools. But Ryden has established an economical strategy that could have profound impact down the road. Sounds cost-effective to me.