Spring is in the air and things are going a little crazy in the fourth grade. It seems everyone has formed an opinion on everyone else around, and it is not just the kids. As an adult, how do you explain that this is a problem you will face for the rest of your life? People are always going to say not so nice things about you. You might also be saying not so nice things about others, FOREVER! A friend may confide with you an opinion, and the worst part, is that you may find yourself agreeing with someone. Then you tell them you agree, and then they tell your best bud what you really really think about them!!!
This makes me crazy. It irritates me when kids talk about each other, when grown ups talk about each other, and when I find myself saying or agreeing to something regrettable. It is truly a hard lesson to realize the impact of your words on others. It is very easy to say that Steve (the stuffed shark in my class is the go to made up name for everything) is a terrible person because he said I had ugly hair. But, when I say that I hate Steve’s lopsided fin, I’m just being honest. We all do this. We lie to ourselves about what we are doing. THEY are mean, but I am honest.
Last week my partner teacher and I gathered our girls and talked about the impact of gossip. A girl asked what to do if she was the victim. Another girl said she would never ever do such a thing. Another drew a picture in her notebook. Can you really teach a girl not to put down another girl? Or does she have to learn it herself? Does she have to be caught saying something? Then get in a nasty argument to even begin to learn the lesson?
I told the girls that it is easy to fall into negativity, I told them that this is often something I am guilty of. I get frustrated with people. The first instinct we have to vent. Although every now and then we need to get it out there, venting doesn’t really help. When we vocalize that negativity, it spreads. I told the girls that I have a few good friends who remind me, “Girl, don’t go there!” A good friend will listen, but a good friend will also stop you before you say something mean or regrettable. I am blessed to have a few people who do that for me. I want to be that person for others. I want to challenge my girls to be that person for their friends.
Maybe it is impossible to encourage ten year old girls not to talk about each other, grown women can’t stop themselves. We all just have so much more going on in our lives than what we happen to think of other people. If the image I put out, is one of discussing what I think of other people, then what does that make me?
As Eleanor Roosevelt once said,
“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”
I’m not sure if what we said made an impact, but hopefully it is a conversation they will remember and reflect on as they grow. In the mean time, my mother suggested I write, “Girl, don’t go there!” on a sentence strip on the back of my classroom door as a reminder. I think I will implement that suggestion early this week.
*”Boy, don’t go there!” can be used as well, sadly, the boys aren’t as guilty as we are.