With a few dozen presentations under my belt since September, you may think I know what to expect at this point, that I could predict the questions that will be asked, the flow of the conversation, the activities that are most engaging and those met with resistance. Fortunately for me, you would be wrong. Each day, each presentation challenges me and keeps me on my toes. Predictability would be boring.
My position with the National Health Corps Florida AmeriCorps program is as the Violence Prevention Facilitator for Youth at the Hubbard House domestic violence shelter. I teach elementary, middle, high school, and college students about bullying, emotions, and healthy relationships. For younger students, this involves games, activities, and discussions about how to be a good friend and how to find help if they see bullying. For older students, we talk about romantic relationships and what crosses the line from healthy to unhealthy to abusive. For each of these lessons, the activities, videos, and general message stay the same. But because no class is made up of the same students or the same life experiences, that’s where the similarities end. Almost.
The one thing all of these kids have in common is that they love to talk. At the beginning of my service term, I was nervous that my questions would be met with empty stares and I would be groveling to keep the students engaged for the entire presentation. The reality is that I ask, “What would you do if you saw someone bullying your friend?” or “How do you calm down when you start to feel angry?” and all 20 hands shoot up in the air. It has made me realize that when it comes to violence and bullying, these kids are not the problem. The problem is that no one is talking to them about alternatives to violence, how to manage their anger, or where they can find help. They are incredibly eager to share their experiences, ask questions, voice their opinions, and learn. They just need someone willing to listen.
My position allows me to be that person. While the information I’m presenting is incredibly important, the most valuable thing I can offer my students is my full attention.
This blog post was written by NHC FL AmeriCorps member, Laura Gilligan.
Laura serves at Hubbard House as a Health Educator.