by Annie Welch, CSJP-A
Associate Annie Welch teaches second grade in Washington State. Here she reflects on what she and her students have learned about nonviolence.
In a discussion with my second graders while reading and learning about Martin Luther King, Jr., one little girl asked "Ms. Welch, what is nonviolence?" I thought to myself, I am so glad you asked. And so our conversation deepened. We talked about what violence is and about tragedies such as when a gunman in Tucson, Arizona killed six people and wounded several others, including the targeted Congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords. I reminded them that each time we solve problems in class or on the playground in a safe, respectful way, using words and not punches or unkindness, we are being nonviolent. We mentioned our "Conflict Wheel," a handout we use to give students good options for resolving disagreements.
Nonviolent choices include: "Walk away or ignore the behavior," "Listen to each other and talk it out," "Flip a coin or do Rock, Paper, Scissors to decide." We reviewed our nonviolent signals like: Holding the hand out to indicate "Please stop," or holding up one finger to mean, "Please wait a minute," or putting the palms of both hands together and then flipping to indicate, "Let's change this behavior" or what the kids like to call, "Flip the Pancake." These can be used as alternatives to help us all handle bothersome interruptions in a respectful way. We pointed to our "Working Level" and "Whoa and Go Zone" posters hanging around the room, reminding us that being a responsible learner helps us all to be successful. Being in the Go Zone indicates attentive listening, sitting still with hands not touching materials, not being engaged in side talk rather eyes on the speaker, and no reminders are needed. Being in the Whoa Zone is quite the opposite. After our discussion, students felt proud that they were practicing nonviolence by using the choices they were being taught and felt really good about being followers of Dr. King's nonviolent teachings.
For myself, my student's question got me thinking about our Congregation's charism, which asks us to allow our values to permeate our lives, our ministries, everything we do. Living nonviolently is up to us and is a conscious choice we must try to make each moment of our lives. Are we always successful? Heavens no! But we can always begin again, much like the gift of reconciliation. As world citizens and nonviolence practitioners, we pray for a peaceful world where all can feel safe, can be responsible for our actions, cooperate for the success of all, and treat each other with respect and kindness, not hate and violence. It does begin with me, and I hope to pass this along to my students.
Annie Welch, CSJP-A leads the community in song at our western regional Jubilee celebration.
"You will hope if God blesses your work to sow the seeds of peace in modern society."