By Anna Marie Boarini, Take Ten Volunteer and blogger of the week!
When I began volunteering with Take Ten, I was taking a seminar with Ellen Kyes. In the class, we learned about youth violence, how boys and girls handle conflict, and ways to prevent youth conflict from happening. The literature gives a pretty dire look at young people. What we were reading did not necessarily cast the best picture as we went to enter the classroom as Take Ten volunteers. Living in the U.S. in a post-Columbine shooting world, I believed the news and thought that certain areas were plagued with violence perpetrated by youth. I didn’t really understand why I thought this, but it is what the media was telling me. Naturally, I thought it was correct. I was honestly a little nervous about how I was going to change the violent attitudes and actions held by my students. I bought into all the hype that youth are irrational and killers are masquerading as middle schools.
Once I entered the classroom, I didn’t see violent fourth graders. I saw kids who sometimes didn’t know how to handle the situations that came up in their daily lives. Instead of the cold, detached personalities I read about, every week my group and I were greeted with smiles, hugs and laughter. Interacting with my kids has really changed my perception on youth violence. Yes, there is violence in schools. Yes, children can be the perpetrators. However, not every child is or is going to become violent. The kids I worked with, even the ones with the worst attitudes, have never acted in a physically violent manner like all the books I’ve read and news reports I’ve seen said they would. As I said before, my kids sometimes don’t know how to handle the situations that arise in their day to day activities. Most of the conflicts I have witnessed and helped work out while volunteering for Take Ten have been an issue of miscommunication. Once the kids use techniques they learn in class, like “Talk it out, walk it out, wait it out,” it is amazing how well they can handle their own problems. They learn that their emotions are a good thing and that they should channel their negative feelings into a positive solution.
Volunteering with Take Ten has totally changed my perception of youth violence. There is violence in schools. To a certain extent, there will always be verbal or physical violence in schools. Working with a program like Take Ten shows how great kids really are and how well they can handle and solve their own conflicts once they have the right skills.