Sunday, October 2, 2011

Peace Table

Once, someone told me a story. Maybe it was true, maybe not! According to the story, a woman asked Ghandi to talk to her husband, because he (the husband) had committed to fast for a week, but never seemed to get around to actually doing it. Ghandi agreed to talk to the husband and ask him to fulfill his commitment, but told her he would only do it in a week's time, and to come back with her husband then.
The woman did as Ghandi asked, but of course she began to wonder why he had made her wait a week, so on the return visit she asked him. He answered, "I would never ask someone to do something I wouldn't do myself!"

The story haunts me at times. I teach the children some very basic life skills - but I realize I don't always do the very things I ask them to do!

One of the very important skill sets I try to work on with the children is to deal with conflict - and how not to let differences of opinion become unecessarily emotional or personal. I talk to them about how to recognize their own emotions, and to think about how their friends may be feeling. I talk to them about differences of opinion, and about how their friends may disagree with them for good reasons, and that it doesn't mean they don't like them anymore.  Another important insight, for them, is to realize that sometimes things happen by accident, and sometimes things are done on purpose.

How do we teach the children to deal with these situations? First, they have to learn to recognize their own feelings about what is happening. Second, they have to learn that attacking - whether physically or verbally - is not an appropriate response. Third, they learn that talking always helps: talking about why they feel upset, or about why they are having a difference of opinion, or about why the accident happened.

We have a Peace Table in the classroom, exactly for the talking part of the exercise. Whenever any of the children wants to, (s)he can invite a friend to come to the Peace Table to talk about whatever is on their mind. Early in the year we introduce this concept to the children, and they are amazingly open to it and simply start using it. I hope this will help them to grow up as adults who don't bottle things up inside - and who also don't explode in reaction to things people do (like I sometimes do!).

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