In the second workshop of the Peer to Peer mentoring program we invite the younger students to express their feelings and opinions about the school culture. They do this by working in small groups to form their ideas, and then presenting them to the rest of their class.
The importance of this workshop lies in two areas. First, it’s about helping the younger students realize for themselves that they exist in a community in which they can have a significant role in shaping. Second, by encouraging them to work in groups and then get up on their feet in front of their peers and present their ideas- or in other words, that their role in any community is a an active one.
There is a greater importance than these two but for the purposes of this short text I’d like to begin by discussing the first point.
Every human being is born into community. The first community we experience is that of family, family in whatever form the needed care-giving takes. But whatever the form, our first experience is one of dependency, of expecting community to meet our needs for shelter and security.
We probably never completely lose this initial sense of community, even after our growing consciousness has moved us to a degree of independence and the ability to support ourselves.
It is consequently very important for our social/emotional development, and growing capacity to reflect, that we start to move from that initial dependency.
When we move out into the public of our society through attending school we are likely at first to transfer that sense of dependency onto teachers and their educational institutions.
It is thus very important for our own growth that we start to actively engage with our school community, and start to develop the internal strength and resources to stand on our own feet. The more we can participate in our classrooms, and in our school culture, the sooner we will develop these necessary internal strengths. Only then can community become more than a surrogate parent, keeping us in a state of helpless dependency.
Our experience of community during the pandemic threatens to throw us back into this sense of helplessness. The virus takes away from us the chance to interact with others and denies us our places of gathering in the community. Since experience with others is where we do a lot of our growing we are thrown back on our own internal resources, which may be still haunted by that original sense of helplessness.
It is consequently very important for us as Peer Leaders that we do not give in to this regressive behaviour which can then manifest in us by denying the safety measures in the community in rebellion. This in turn can often lead to misplaced anger and blaming- without evidence- of all authority figures.
As Peer Leaders we work with the present manifestation of community the pandemic gives us, reaching out to whomever we can to help them feel supported. This is extremely important in the light of the fact that the virus affects certain groups in our community differently, in certain cases due to physical differences, but also due to inequities in our communities.
When a person feels supported they are more likely to find the means to help themselves in ways other than blaming others or ‘things’ like a virus, which is key to developing our resilience during a pandemic. Our innate resilience depends on it, as do our communities. On a deeper level we won’t recover from this pandemic because a vaccine is invented, or the virus just disappears, but by the way we have grown through the experience and our actions.
This last point brings me to the previous comment I made about the greater importance of our workshop for our social/emotional growth. Both in the initial Respect workshop and this second workshop we are attempting to help the younger students develop some literacy in the ways they are developing their character and personality.
In our early personal growth, as we move from dependency to independence through childhood and adolescence, we are in essence working on two levels. On one level we are learning to meet our needs and developing behaviours in the world over which we have some degree of control., and which we hope will bring us some degree of success (however our inner person defines this world and success). But on the deeper internal level we are creating ourselves, how we see ourselves in terms of core experiences we value, competency, self-worth and much more that relates to our striving for authenticity.
It is these spiritual qualities that constitute the major part of becoming a person that are as threatened as our physical being by this pandemic- and which I will speak about next.