MP Middle Schoolers tackle tough topics before hitting the booksStudents receive a refresher course in bullying, diversity as they return from break
BY BROOKS TAYLOR
Mt. Pleasant News
Like most school districts in the area, Mt. Pleasant Community School District students returned to the classroom Wednesday.
Middle school students, however, received a refresher course before venturing into their classrooms. The middle school hosted a diversity/bullying/positive behavior seminar during the morning hours.
MPCMS Associate Principal Michael Gossen said he got the idea about such a seminar about midway through the first semester.
“On the first day back, we wanted to re-communicate behavior expectations and highlight some things we wanted to focus on during the second half of the year,” Gossen explained.
He said the topics were picked “because of a growing awareness of things happening in the community and school. We wanted to highlight positive things, define bullying and harassment and be sensitive to the needs of others.
“When I was in school we never heard of bullying,” Gossen continued, “but now, kids want to claim bullying for everything. We need to define bullying and create a better cultural environment.”
Approximately 38 percent of the middle school students are minorities, Gossen remarked. Consequently, diverse cultures are an important element in each middle school student’s daily life.
Gossen said the school was taking a preventative approach before problems may surface. “It is kind of like preventative medicine in our approach toward behaviors, bullying, harassment and racial diversity.”
The seminar was divided into the three blocks — bullying, cultural diversity and school behavior and the middle school population rotated through the blocks with each session lasting 43 minutes.
Guidance Counselor Amy Pullis moderated the bullying session and English language learners (ELL) instructor Dina Saunders headed the diversity presentation. Various school personnel talked to the students about positive behavior in and out of the classroom, in the restroom, cafeteria, hallway and before and after school.
Students not only learned from it, they felt it was a worthwhile exercise — and not just because they were escaping classes for a few hours.
Sixth-grader Mackenzie Musselman said she learned “that we are all different and that is a good thing.” Although she has never been bullied, she thinks bullying can be a problem in school.
Musselman’s classmate Ian Hake also said diversity was a good thing. “If you didn’t have diversity, everything would be the same. Diversity brings differences, which is a good thing.”
Hake said he has not been bullied at the middle school but did experience some bullying at another school. “Some kids made fun of me because I was not good in sports.”
“I’ve learned that there are a lot of different kinds of diversity,” reflected sixth-grader Danielle Muhs. “For instance, there is biodiversity. I think we work better with diversity. Diversity helps us trust other people. If everybody were the same, nothing new would happen. We couldn’t recognize our differences if we were all the same.”
Seventh-grader Ava Lowery said she learned that students should stick up for other students. “You should do what you would want them to do for you.”
Regarding classroom behavior, she said an important lesson is that it is not right to “mess around” in class. “If you get your work done, things will go better.”
Kenna Lamm, another seventh-grade student, echoed Lowery’s statement about the Golden Rule. She remarked she also learned that to achieve, you must take a correct path of action.
On the topic of diversity, Lamm said that we are all the same and “skin color doesn’t matter.”
In her presentation, Pullis said the school wants students to have a positive experience. “If you experience bullying, tell a teacher, the principal, assistant principal or a parent. You need to think of others.” But before speaking, she urged students to think. “Things can get blown out of proportion and we want to limit the drama.”
Carter Foerch, a seventh-grader, said he learned bullying “is something you have heard about and told not to do but it happens.” Although he hasn’t been bullied, he said he has seen indirect bullying, such as nasty emails.
Concerning behavior in the classroom, Foerch said there is more than just attendance. He noted that it is important to get work turned in on time because not only is it important for your well-being but also for the well-being of the instructor.
The seminar, Foerch said, was a good idea. “I think it has been helpful for people because there is more to it (school behavior, cultural diversity and bullying) than people know.”
Gossen, too, hopes that it was not only a positive but also an enlightening experience. “There is a lot of data that suggests when you communicate behavior upfront, office visits are down and behavior improves. This (seminar) was about creating more awareness and how we can relate to each other as community members.”