Sorry to be out of touch here on the blog, but life got a bit busy. I have to learn to write quick and short.
The good news is that there is SO much to report on The Power of Half Schools. The big thing: The students, armed with new confidence in themselves to be agents of change, have begun shifting the culture at Bear Creek Middle School.
During Week 5, we focused on helping students recognize their own resources and assets. These are kids who have grown up (understandably) focusing on what is missing from their lives -- money, a father, academic help, a safe community, decent role models. But we are trying to help them realize that they have assets the world needs, whether it is their smarts or sense of humor or caring or physical strength.
In the Monday assembly, they watched video clips of Spiderman and the kid from the Volkswagen commercial. We talked about confidence and about persistence. Best of all, they've heard amazing talks from:
-- Dionicio Torres, a former middle-school dropout who was then blinded in a drug deal gone bad. From his hospital bed, he heard his mother tell someone that he could never amount to anything of value. But Dionicio told how he has returned to school, worked his butt off and now is graduating high school with a 3.7 GPA.
-- Mr. Bailey, who told of a funeral he attended during Spring Break of a middle-school friend who died because of poor choices he made. Pointing out at the students during our Monday assembly, his eyes softened. "I thought about you all break." And he urged them to make the choices and use the resources that would empower them to succeed.
So, we've been through several phases of building kids' recognition of what they can be: "I Matter," "I Have Vision" and "I Have Resources."
Listen to the kind of sentences we are hearing. (Not making any of this up -- and I have the videos to prove it.)
-- "Hearing the stories helps me realize that I have purpose and resources. Oh, and I have a voice."
-- "The only thing that stops you is you."
-- "I wasn't using my resources. But when you showed the (video) clips and slides about resources, I realized that I can be successful. I thank you guys for that."
-- "A lot of time people run into a brick wall because they are trying to change other people before they change themselves. We need to change ourselves."
-- "People (at Bear Creek) are more open to each other. You don't see people going down the hallway being as mean to each other as they were before."
-- "Before, Mr. Marshall would have a whole stack of write-ups in his hand and he'd do em all. Now he hardly has to do any write-ups."
-- "In the bathrooms, people used to write harsh comments on the walls. Now, I think people are starting to come to a reality, like what's the point of that? People are changing, you can see that."
-- "With the assemblies, we watch differently things and people start to realize that they have problems, there are bigger problems out there. And it's better to worry more about other people's problems and be a little less selfish."
-- "I see a lot of people helping each other now (in the school). Before, when somebody would drop their books people might just keep walking. You'll see maybe 5 people down there now helping pick up every piece of paper."
-- "I feel better about myself now."
-- "You know how people look at Bear Creek like this (makes face with bad smell). But now, it's 'No, this school has changed a lot. It's not what you think it is, you have to go see it for yourself. You see the difference in the kids, how they come down the hallways. It's a totally different school."