Are you curious? Have I got your attention? Wondering what I don’t want you to be? What word I am planning on using and where I am going with that blank space I left in my title? Well, I will tell you but first I need to share two stories. Then you will know what to fill that space in with, I promise!
Mean girl stuff is beginning to rear its ugly head in my class. I learned from a parent that one little girl’s feelings were hurt during a fun online session the children participate in called Buddy Rooms. I designed these sessions with the children as a way to include the virtual learners in some relaxed “recess-type” hang-outs with their in school classmates. The class chose topics and I set up Break-out rooms once or twice a week in lieu of Office Hours. I supervise but there is also some freedom, just enough freedom for fun, and, as it turns out, for feelings to get hurt.
One of my virtual students, a lovely, quiet, and somewhat anxious little girl, was the at the receiving end of the hurt feelings. The girls she joined the Buddy Room with, her friends, made her feel like a third wheel with some poorly chosen words. Words that were just not-innocent enough to have me believe they were not intended to hurt. Words that went something like this, “Sandy,” Bella said, “Delia and I think you just wait to pick a buddy room until we pick one first. Then you just follow us so you can be in our group.” Do you see what I mean? The words may have been misinterpreted by my quiet, anxious little girl, but some intervention is called for here. Warning flags are going off. These are third graders and they are at the age this behavior begins. It’s time for some well placed and well chosen lessons on empathy and kindness. It’s time for my Rosemary story!
I got lucky because this week we were celebrating International SEL Day. (A bit of irony, wouldn’t you agree?) Today (Friday) we were focusing on empathy. I began my well chosen lesson by introducing empathy. “Picture someone you know who seems a little sad, maybe a little lonely. Now put yourself in their shoes, imagine feeling what they are feeling. Now think about what someone else could do to help you!” We named what a sad or lonely person needs. The children suggested friends, someone visiting, letters or phone calls, maybe a gift. They had the right idea.
“Well now I want to tell you about a time when Mrs. Scannell was made to feel very sad and lonely by her friends.” I went on to tell them my “Rosemary” story. It is the story of how my third grade friend, Rosemary, left me out of a play date with our other friend. I ended up going home in tears. The children are always horrified that I was treated that way. “Exactly,” I say, “And that is why I say, don’t ever be anyone’s Rosemary. Don’t be the person who does something to make someone else cry. Protect your friends and their feelings!” In other words, use a little empathy!
I will continue to guide and teach my third graders. They will still be mean sometimes, it is the human way. But maybe, just maybe, my Rosemary story will stay with them. Remind them how mean words and unkind behavior can make others feel. Remind them that kindness and empathy will help them battle poorly chosen words and actions. Maybe, next time, when they are tempted to be unkind, they will remind themselves,
Don’t Be a Rosemary.