Ninth grade can be a hard transition for most students but I never expected my daughter to cry on her second day of school.
When she got in the car after school, I knew something was on her mind. We had our normal “how was school” spiel and she gave the usual responses. Silence grew thicker and finally she told me.
“I cried today, they really got to me today, and I cried.”
This is a school that she’s desired to attend for years. Their halls are filled with graffiti and works of art created by students.
Teachers and students rock an array of hair colors and mohawks.
At parent orientation the school social worker told us, “ don’t be alarmed if your child comes home and tells you they met with me. We often have intentional moments with students to keep them focused on what they are here for.”
That sounded cool but, again, never would I have thought she would cry on the second day of school.
I was happy about it!
Yep! My daughter had a moment where she cried in school and I was happy.
All of the newly-enrolled students lined up in the gym and were asked to open up to their classmates about what they thought they would experience. The staff assured students that participation was not required and if at any moment they felt uncomfortable they could not respond.
Staff members asked questions about the students and anyone who had a connection to the question was invited to step up.
My daughter Victoria said the question became more and more personal:
Has anyone here ever felt like they were alone?
Has anyone ever lost a parent to death?
Has anyone had someone close to them commit suicide?
Does anyone need a hug?
The student next to her began to weep and stepped out of line. Another student came over to him and hugged him. The embrace prompted other students to hug anyone who stepped up for a hug.
That’s when Victoria cried. She felt compassion for the young man and tears began to flow.
Up until this point, Victoria has never experienced a school that opens with such vulnerable moments. She and her peers took that opportunity to show compassion for one another. It made me so happy.
I wish every school would start the new school year like this. Students who have the opportunity to see that they are not alone starts the process of building empathy and a mindset that kicks bullying out before it raises its ugly head. This is what students need!
“No one snickered or laughed when kids stepped up,” she told me. “If anything, they felt like OMG, they go through that too !”
Group sessions like this went on for two full days and the next day began with a drum session. Students gathered together once again to feel the rhythm of African drums and share what they will achieve for the year.
Yeah! I know that there are no perfect schools but schools that go the extra mile to support student success are close. And, I am grateful that they made my daughter cry