Creating a safe space for over a hundred 7th grade girls to share their feelings with their classmates is no easy task. It’s possible and I witnessed it at my daughter’s school. All of the girls participated in an interactive workshop called the ID Project. I volunteered to serve as a small group leader but had no idea what to expect.
The organization’s goal is to help shift the tide on middle and high school campuses to become positive, safe, respectful, compassionate, and healthy relational environments (Changepoint LLC). The id project focuses more on self-awareness and making good decisions. I thought the workshop was fantastic.
There were two exercises that stood out for me but I’m only going to describe one. Before each exercise began, the presenters self-disclosed and shared personal situations to help the girls to understand a concept or message.
The exercise was introduced with a 15-20 minute interactive lesson using the iceberg concept. I‘ve used the iceberg concept in my own classes with college students to discuss differences and diversity. Icebergs are usually large, and we only see the visible part that is sticking out above the surface or water line. Most of the iceberg is below the surface. Translate this to people and what it says is a large part of who we are is below the surface. We tend to focus on the exterior not realizing that there is so much more to people.
He related this to bullying, judging and teasing their peers about things they can’t control in some cases (genetics). After the discussion they used blue painters tape to make a long line on one side of the gym. There was a black line already painted on the gym floor on the opposite side. One line represented above the water line and the other line represented below the water line. All of the girls lined up on the water line. Here are a few highlights.
If you know someone who is disabled, addicted to drugs or ill please walk over to the other line. He gave each girl who wanted to share an opportunity to say who and what they were dealing with. “My father is addicted to drugs”. “My mother is addicted to drugs”. “My aunt has breast cancer”. “My mom has lymphoma”.
If your family is having money problems walk over to the other line.
If you have ever been made fun of because of the clothes you wear walk over to the other line.
If you have ever been bullied on social media walk to the other line.
If you have lost a parent walk to the other line.
I was surprised by all of the girls who walked across to the other line. It was very eye-opening. Our young people are dealing with some heavy stuff.
After each (if you) statement, the facilitator acknowledged their struggles, expressed sorrow for their experience and provided words of encouragement. Then they walked back to the other line. This was so powerful!! The girls learned things about their classmates that they had no idea they were going through. The tears, and hugs were just flowing everywhere.
We processed this experience with the facilitator and in small groups. My small group shared what they learned from this exercise. They learned that some of the girls they thought had perfect lives were not so perfect after all. They learned that you never know what someone is dealing with at home. The last thing they need is someone at school talking behind their back or bullying them on social media.
They learned that their classmates do care. We all have flaws and we all make mistakes. They even had the opportunity to make amends with someone they felt they owed an apology right then and there. Awesome, just awesome. It was a great exercise in gaining awareness, taking responsibility and making good decisions. Your life situation does not have to be your life story. They are still young, and can create their own positive story.
It was a very moving experience for me. Kids are dealing with a lot these days, and they need love and encouragement from all of us. The program allowed the girls to share their thoughts, feelings and struggles in a constructive way. It was certainly much-needed.
Programs like this are valuable beyond words.
Peace and Blessings,