For Educators: Promoting Upstanding at the Sacramento Waldorf School (Project Idea)
The KIND Schools Challenge team at the Sacramento Waldorf School in Fair Oaks, California has spent several months developing student-led workshops to promote upstanding in their community. They have not only opened lines of communication between students but have also provided students with a toolbox of ways to help their peers feel safe and welcomed at school. Here’s what the team has to say about the project thus far.
What has been the most surprising outcome of your KIND Schools Challenge project?
When we began, we were holding a vision of long, slow change away from a bystander culture. We repeated over and over to ourselves that "change happens slowly." Our goal was to create room and space for even the possibility of change. We have been blown away by the increasing numbers of students engaged in calling out forms of harassment and bullying. We worked hard to train our facilitators to offer ways to call out without escalating confrontation or inviting backlash. While it's not working every single time, it's showing up nearly every day on our campus!
Your project has many moving parts and your team has a lot going on – tell us a bit about how you’ve been able to make the KIND Schools Challenge a priority alongside your school work and other commitments.
We made the decision to enter the challenge the week before school started this year and our commitment to the project has remained strong. We have spent some long Sundays at Starbucks, we had a whole day of facilitator training at our advisors house, and we added a weekly meeting to our student government schedule to be sure we stayed on track. And, as each SIPtalk approached, group texting has saved us!
What is one challenge you’ve encountered while working on the KIND Schools Challenge? How did your team overcome this obstacle?
From the beginning, we were nervous about handling moments in group discussion that started to go off of the rails. What if a student in the group didn't take it seriously, was monopolizing the conversation, or was obstinate or rude? It didn't take long to find out. In each of the four SIPTalks we've held this year, at least one of our student facilitators faced tricky moments, but the support we gave each other and the practice and training we had helped us navigate through it.
We learned to face really challenging people by asking them to engage even more—"tell me more about that and why you feel that way" was an absolutely effective strategy that became a favorite. We began with seniors and juniors as facilitators, but at our last SIPtalk the sophomores facilitated for mixed groups of sophomores and freshmen. After a really challenging group, one of our sophomore facilitators beamed when sharing about the experience and said, "It was hard at times, but I feel so respected!"
Originally published May 2018.