Year end wrap up

By Daniel Martin

As Valentina noted in the last reflection, the school year is at its end. Honestly, it has been an awesome experience with Take Ten. I work at the Robinson Community Learning Center with Take Ten, and I get to see the incredible amount of hard work our Americorps members and work-studies put into the program to keep it running smoothly (not to mention Ellen, our Program Director!)

One of my tasks with Take Ten is to observe each Take Ten volunteer group in action as they teach students, and give them feedback on their lesson plans. That being said, it is an honor to have seen so many volunteers come together every week for an ENTIRE YEAR. They take time out of their busy school and work schedules to teach the wonderful message to local area students about the virtues of following the path of non-violence and offering the students the skills to do so. Without these volunteers, Take Ten could not possibly exist. On behalf of the Take Ten program, I would like to extend to these wonderful ladies and gentlemen, a most sincere thank you.

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Take Ten Blog of the Week: Valentina

As the school year comes to an end, I am able to sit back and reflect on all the things I was able to experience. One of the most remarkable was Take Ten. This was my first year as part of the Take Ten team, and I honestly do not think it could have gone better. At first, I found the task of teaching a conflict-resolution class to kids intimidating. I had so many questions, such as, how will I engage with them? Will they listen to what I have to say? Will I be able to make a difference in their lives? My doubts went away the moment I met the class I was assigned to teach. Seeing their eager faces, I knew it was not a mistake I was there; I was called to be a positive role model in the lives of these kids, someone they could look up to.

I was able to stay with them for two semesters rather than one, which means we were able to create an even stronger bond. It was not always easy, as sometimes, both the kids and I were tired or not in the best of moods. However, in those moments, I had an amazing Take Ten team behind me to support me, whether it meant brainstorming lessons, games, etc. Their commitment to better these kids lives is commendable and worthy of respect. I truly could not have done it without them.

Now the year is over and I am thankful for all I was able to learn. I learned patience, leadership skills, but I also learned to listen because some of these kids have incredible wisdom and stories worth listening to. I am so blessed to have been able to be part of the team this year, and I eagerly look forward to next year!

-Valentina Marquez-Montero

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Volunteer celebrates the effect Take Ten has on her students

By Savannah Kounelis

Take Ten is a program designed to promote non-violent means to solve conflicts, and in doing so, it hopefully ends issues such as bullying in schools around South Bend. Bullying is an obstacle that as a child and even now as an adult at Notre Dame, I see others and myself dealing with on a daily basis. I think that the key difference between the bullies one faces is youth and the bullies one faces as an adult is that bullies become harder to distinguish from peers as you grow up. Teaching 5th grade students, it is clear the bullies they deal with are direct, seeking outright conflict in the form of hateful words or even physical fights. As a college student, the bullies I face are much more subtle in their intents, hiding behind micro-aggressions and two-faced comments. In both cases a person’s dignity and happiness are being attacked, which is something that as a society we should not stand for. We see daily the impact that this can have on a person’s life: it can lead to dropping out of school, self harm, or even at the most extreme, to the taking of a life, either or someone else’s or one’s own.

This is one reason why I joined the Take Ten team as a Federal work-study intern. I believe that the skills the program teaches to end conflict with non-violent means of resolution are key to improving students’ quality of life and education in South Bend. I can see the changes that the program’s philosophy has made in students, such as helping students speak up for themselves more often or simply to help the kids remove themselves from harmful situations instead of choosing to fight. It seems to be making them happier and healthier students who can focus on schoolwork and making friends instead of the fear of being ostracized or hurt when they attend class. My experience with Take Ten this semester has been so great, and I feel like in teaching the “Talk it out, Walk it out, Wait it out!” ideology, I have benefited just as much as the students. It is my hope to keep working with the Take Ten program as it expands, and to see its impact reach more students in the South Bend next year to better prevent violence and bullying in the school system.

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Notre Dame Senior recalls her year with Take Ten

By Kathleen Krah

I teach Take Ten to two very different groups of students- a class of energetic 2nd graders and a group of high school upperclassmen who lead Take Ten mentoring groups for underclassmen. It has been such a pleasure to get to know so many of these kids and help as they grow through Take Ten. As a senior at Notre Dame, I have really enjoyed stepping out of the ND “bubble” and getting involved with the South Bend community through the Robinson Center.

The second graders are hilarious. When a question is asked, hands thrust towards the ceiling and wave back and forth, determined to be selected and then to give the right answer. However, when we pose a conflict scenario and ask what the passive, aggressive, and assertive options for conflict resolution are, the students struggle to understand the difference between assertive and passive behavior. Oftentimes, they suggest aggressive behaviors or passive behaviors as the only alternatives in these conflict scenarios. Learning the new vocabulary thru Take Ten changes the way they think about their options in conflict, and it’s been really neat to watch as the students pick up on it.

In contrast, the high school students generally already know most of the key terminology and official teachings of Take Ten. Learning these strategies is a critical first step. Last week, the students brainstormed a list of conflicts and then split up into groups and created skits of possible resolutions, considering consequences and incorporating other Take Ten principles in a pro/con analysis of each option. I was amazed by the thought the students put into this activity. I think the students learned a lot from this activity, as it gave them an opportunity to think and create solutions to these common scenarios outside of the heat of the moment so that when they come up in the future, they are prepared to apply Take Ten to resolve the conflict.

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It’s the little things…

By Molly Gettinger

The second grade students that I teach are a wiggling, squiggling, motley bunch, trying oh-so-hard to sit “crisscross apple sauce hands in your lap” every Tuesday morning during our Take Ten meetings. Beneath jittery knees and tilted heads lies a different type of discontentment, one struggling to reconcile the violence and discontinuities in their lives. Through discussion, students shared about challenges faced at home, at school, and in their friendships. In their sharing, one truth became increasingly evident: the little things matter. Kayla shared that she struggles with feeling “not as good at things” as her older sister, who is often praised for her artistic talent. Michael opened up about conflicts that he has in school, sharing his struggles to avoid having to sit in the “take a break” chair or have detention. Jamal and Oscar talked about a fight they had in first grade, and how, in resolving their conflict, they became best friends. Amid each situation that the students faced, we worked together to explore peaceful options to assertively resolve the conflicts prevalent in the lives of these second grade students. Even though they may be young, injustice is palpable to these children, and it is on these students that the exceedingly slow saunter towards a transformed world lies. The toolbox of resources that Take Ten offers students is a valuable seed that can continue to grow and impact the world in a peacefully positive way.

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The rewards of taking the path less traveled

By Daniel Martin

I graduated college close to three years ago, and though I was excited to be finished, it was not an easy time. There were so many different roads for my life to take, and to be honest, it was overwhelming.

I’ve always wanted to make sure that my life had a positive impact on the people around me. Unfortunately, for the first two years after college, I did not get that privilege. I was employed, and for that I am grateful, but I did not get to truly help others.

Last September, I started with Take Ten through the Americorps program.  I moved from my hometown of Muskegon, MI to South Bend, IN. My main inspiration was my hometown. Muskegon had a particularly violent 2014, with several high profile crimes occurring the spring and summer I left. As a result, Take Ten’s message of non-violence had resonated quite deeply within me.

While I was in college, I had spent time volunteering at the South Bend Juvenile Correctional Facility (now the Community Re-Entry Center.) In my time there, I witnessed at the devastating effect jail sentences could have on our youth. Coming into Take Ten, I told myself that if all the hours I spend working this year keeps at least one child out of prison, then it will all be worth it.

After several months of service, I stand by that statement as strongly as ever. Every week I get to see students learn ideas they did not know before, and it has been a blessing. Being with Take Ten has been a true experience, one I am happy to carry with me through my other journeys in life.

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Learning the value of creating compassionate connections

“Some kids are bullies, some are victims.”

“Kids will be kids”

“Ehh they’ll grow out of it”

Growing up, many of us have been exposed to clichés that explain behavior amongst children regarding school violence, and sadly quite a few people have accepted these sentiments as truths that are to be accepted without question. Coming in to Notre Dame, I also accepted the idea that children acted a certain way and that attempts to try to change this behavior would ultimately prove to be futile.  I have been very fortunate to volunteer with the Take Ten program, and learn through first- hand experience that I have learned that school dynamics are more complicated than this. During every classroom visit, students would give me insight into the background issues that they faced and the resolve shown in overcoming these challenges.  Some of these students were identified by the staff and other students as the “bullies” and some were identified as the bullied. Overall, many of these students had complicated backgrounds that needed to be taken to account before making assumptions regarding their behavior.  The Take Ten curriculum helps both student and volunteer analyze conflict resolution.

As a senior, I have realized that these sorts of generalizations are made about a variety of different contemporary issues in our society and that this superficiality prevents people from digging deeper to identify the true roots of these problems.  For example, I recently read a novel by Dr. Danielle Ofri called What Doctors Feel, which describes some of the different emotional highs and lows that physicians experience in different stages of their careers.  In one section, she specifically describes a heroin addict who frequently comes into the hospital. Most of the medical staff see this man as a lost cause; some of providers, however, took a step forward to try to get to know the man on a deeper level. By taking this step they were able to identify the roots of the addiction and treat him as more of a fellow person worthy of compassion rather than as just a “deadbeat junkie.”

Take Ten teaches volunteers the importance of forming genuine connections with the students and school faculty with which we are with in order to try to reach the underlying roots of bullying and make lasting impacts with students and schools. I hope to carry these lessons that I have learned from Take Ten into future endeavors, so that I can help affect change on a more profound level.

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AmeriCorps member contemplates what makes Take Ten special

By Claire Roboski

As a professional who has been teaching at Title I (high poverty, “high-risk”) schools for four years, Take Ten was an easy transition for me. Teaching is my niche; it allows me to communicate openly with young minds and allows me to impart knowledge as well as personal experiences I had growing up. I became a teacher because my experience with education was NOT a good one. My patience, sense of humor, and honesty are what help me set the standard for my students and what allows me to connect with them. I share my own struggles and my own life experiences. I try to use the above qualities in Take Ten as often as possible. There are many similarities between teaching in the classroom and Take Ten after-school. However, what sets Take Ten apart is the fact that it is a time that is unrushed. The time is there for both the instructor/leader/volunteer and students to have fun (play a few ice breakers throughout the one or two hour session), share personal struggles or conflicts, brainstorm ideas/resolutions, and embark on a learning journey together. What I liked best about Take Ten was what I wish I had MORE in the general classroom setting: TIME TO LISTEN. When people (no matter if it my first graders, my Take Ten fourth or fifth graders, or even the adult women at Center for the Homeless) feel cared about and listened to, communication becomes that much easier. Problems are resolved more quickly because Take Ten provides the time to listen and to share thoughts. It provides a time to grow. I would recommend it for anyone looking to volunteer their time and for anyone looking to open themselves up to a learning opportunity. You will set out to help others, but I believe you will find you end up helping yourself in the process.

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Becoming a part of our community

By Emily Moser

Volunteering with Take Ten for the past four years has taught me so much.  Regularly being in charge of a classroom has helped me grow as a leader, and teaching the lessons has caused me to reflect and improve upon how I handle conflict in my own life.  While these have been important benefits, I think that the greatest thing that I have taken away from being a part of Take Ten is that it has enabled me to feel like a member of the South Bend community.

During the school year it is very easy to become trapped in the Notre Dame bubble.  With classes, food, and friends all located within walking distance it’s hard to remember that there’s anything beyond Eddy Street.  Take Ten is my chance to break that bubble.  It’s a time for me to spend connecting with and giving back to the community that I live in.

Serving in the classroom is easily my favorite part of the week.  I love to see how excited the students are to participate in Take Ten.  It’s great to see them grow through the semester, and at the end it’s hard to say goodbye because of the bond we’ve created.  This bond makes me feel like I’m more than just a student at Notre Dame.  I’m a volunteer in South Bend schools, and I am lucky to have these students welcome me into and treat me as part of their community.

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Volunteer takes pride in student growth

By Abby Balmert

Departing from the classroom with my fifth graders on the last day of fall semester’s Take Ten program, I was filled with hope. In the past few months, I have watched with pride as the kids eagerly asked questions about and brain-stormed solutions to violence in their own lives. They shared tender personal experiences involving violence at school and at home and opened up in ways I suspect they never have before. They appreciated and whole-heartedly embraced their own and one another’s cultural and ethnic diversity in a way that would comfort anyone discouraged by the events following the Ferguson trial. Despite their seemingly disadvantaged predicaments, they all demonstrated how they were more than ready to rise above their circumstances and effect positive change in their own lives and the lives of their peers. I was amazed to witness the striking transformation of their demeanors and attitudes as time progressed – for example, the same student who proclaimed during our first meeting that she “liked violence” later presented me with an artistic gift on which she had written “I am kindness.” I had to hold back the tears that welled up in my eyes. The eight individuals whom I love as my own younger siblings possessed some bitterness built up by the day-to-day injustices experienced during negative interactions with peers or the poor example of adults. But they are like Sour Patch Kids – first they’re sour…then they’re sweet. It just requires a bit of time to melt away the tart exterior.

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