Eighth grade student, Sasha Wilhelm-Hart wrote this article about an eighth grade class in nonviolence held at Meadowbrook recently. The course was led by Su Rubinoff, MWS early childhood teacher and Faculty Chair and Meadowbrook alumna, Gillian Bell. Su and Gillian both studied Kingian nonviolence conflict reconciliation at the Center for Nonviolence & Peace Studies at URI where they also received training certification.
Our classes, which were weekly for six weeks, mainly focused on nonviolence, discrimination, the civil rights movement and the life and teachings of Martin Luther King. We also talked about conflict. We focused on three levels of conflict which are normal, pervasive and overt. For one activity we were divided into groups and given a level of argument and we needed to create a skit about it and the rest of the class needed to guess what it was. We could see how important it was to try to keep arguments at the normal level verses having conflict escalating and getting out of hand. We talked about how to respond to conflict situations and having the courage to see and stand up for what is right.
One of the first times that we met, we brainstormed about what words described violence and then nonviolence. Everyone then created their own definition and then together, taking bits and pieces from all the definitions we created just one and here it is:
Is a safe peaceful community, where everyone is treated equally.
Loving people even though you have your differences.
A place where a person is not judged by the color of his or her skin.
To not use verbal, mental, physical, or sexual abuse to harm others because you may make someone think something about themselves that is not true.
Take charge. Have initiative.
Don’t point a finger; extend a hand.
The 8th grade watched a documentary entitled the ‘Children’s March’ which occurred in Birmingham, Alabama in the early 60s. It was very eye opening to the class about the kind of abuse the people were put through no matter if they were men, women or children; it was a huge stain on the fabric of America. As part of understanding this time, we read the entire ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’ by Dr. King and all of us were amazed at the emotional drive and intelligence behind his writing. Each time, we had lively discussions about what we saw or read.
Many thanks to Miss Su and Gillian for their generous time and wonderful knowledge; they were both fascinating and riveting.
Su Rubinoff responds: “The 8th graders were amazing… they really responded and participated in an inspiring way. For me, knowing so many of them since kindergarten, I glowed with their responses and how we, the teachers at Meadowbrook and the parents have really planted the seeds of kindness and compassion. We start in the early years by putting a ‘protective sheath’ around the children but each year we open it more and more and eighth grade is the time for this kind of program and the awareness that it brings. Emerging adolescents have a clear sense of themselves and their capacities so the Waldorf curriculum at this stage helps the students come to an understanding of the world they live in. Their change in perspective is reflected as they study the Industrial and French Revolutions, the American Civil War and more, allowing them to think creatively and to make judgements. I have no doubt that these teenage graduates are going to make a difference in whatever high school they attend and beyond”.
Kingian nonviolence conflict reconciliation education is based on the philosophy and strategies of Martin Luther King, Jr. To learn more click here.