Wednesday, October 25, 2000
Steamboat Springs After shedding tears, forgiving enemies and embracing new friends, the eighth-grade class at Steamboat Springs Middle School collectively agreed to stop teasing and hurting each other.
The students came to this decision after participating in Challenge Day on Wednesday, run by a group from Martinez, Calif., that showed students how to appreciate their peers.
"In school we're not taught how to be kind to each other, how to forgive each other or how to open our hearts and really be friends with someone we don't know. That's why we do this work," said Donna Stevens, a member of the California group.
Sandy Hall, the principal of the middle school, said she hopes this day will help students develop a respect for their classmates.
"Middle school is an age when you want to blend in and be like everyone else," Hall said. "When kids are even a little different, it's hard for them to be accepted."
Students participated in various games and activities to better connect with their peers. In small groups, they got a chance to know each other better by completing the sentence, "you would really know me if you knew that."
"I think this day is a very productive activity," said Darren Koehler, an eighth-grader who participated. "We have a lot of cliques and groups in our middle school, and I think this helps us get past that."
Students were able to better understand their peers through the Power Shuffle, which was used to symbolize what it feels like to be oppressed. Students and adults involved were asked to stand behind a black line painted on the gym floor. Stevens or Ken Scheible, another member of the California group, would ask students to cross the line if they've experienced certain things, such as a person close to them dying, wanting to commit suicide or being teased. Everyone who could identify would cross over to a separate line that faced the group. The people who did not cross the line were able to see the people in their school who had experience different hardships. The people who did cross the line saw that they were not the only ones who had been through that specific experience.
"I thought I was the only one who was depressed and wanted to kill myself," one student said after the activity. "Now I've realized that I'm not the only one."
"This activity helps people see what it is like to be placed in categories in today's society," Scheible said. "They experience the ways they've been hurt and see that they're not alone."
During Power Shuffle, students were encouraged to support their classmates by giving them a hug or placing a hand on their shoulder.
At the end of the day, students were encouraged to put all the teasing and hurt behind them. Students were given the chance to apologize to peers they had teased or forgive others for teasing them.
"I've been teased a lot and I've teased people a lot," said Koehler in front of his peers. "But I'm willing to put that all behind me. My idea of a perfect world is one where we can all respect each others' differences, and I hope we can put them aside. People need to get to know me for who I am inside they'd like me."