Out of the Mouths of Babes: A Peaceful Playground

SAM_0873Who are you?  Why are you here?  The answers to these questions can be as profound as the depth in each child’s eyes. Since I believe that it’s never too soon to begin this inquiry, I use my role as Student Council advisor to get  children to look inside themselves. Our introductory meeting includes each student telling the group why they volunteered to be leaders.

This year their answers moved me to tears.

Many of the 5th and 6th graders were former students, previous peace ambassadors, or had seen the impact our  peace program had on campus. Oh sure a few had the typical response of  just wanting  to make posters or pass them out on spirit days but I was surprised at how many kids wanted to stop bullying at school. As we went around the room and each said, “My name is___. I am in ___grade and joined Student Council to ____” several shared their dreams of a more peaceful campus.

“I want to stop bullying so kids don’t feel sad, and maybe won’t do suicide later.  I want my friends to be happy,” Daisy said.

“I joined Student Council because I imagine a peaceful playground where kids feel safe. I want to stop mean kids from getting in fights,” Andrew added.

I was already getting choked up when Joseph spoke. “I joined because I want to be a friend mediator. But not just that, I want to expand our program, go deeper so we get at the cause of  problems. Because if we figure out what’s making kids do this maybe we can truly help them.”

Now I’m a real gush who gets teary just hearing a whimpering puppy, but this struck a deep cord. Ten and eleven-year-olds aware that the future was  in their hands?  And wanting to make a difference? I was blown away and so very proud.  These kids knew that if they didn’t do something to help their classmates, horrible things could happen.

My students come from all walks of life: from the most stable loving homes to severe abuse. But even those whose lives are easy see their peers’ pain.  They hear the stories of gangs, homelessness, and neglect. And they wanted to change that.  By becoming Student Council leaders they felt empowered. You could see in their hopeful faces that they truly believed  they could inspire others to kindness.

We kept going around the room until each child had a turn to share how the school should change.  Not a one asked for more cookies at lunch or to ban  homework. Instead each child shared how he or she would serve.

5th and 6th graders in service.  Kids are friggin’ beautiful.