Each month at JRA we have a unit study in social studies. We began with ancient Egypt, then ancient Greece, the Vikings, and Old Testament stories. Next month we will study Japan. And this month we are studying peacemakers.
Many of our students are impulsive and don’t always self-edit before they speak. If our kids were countries, WWIII would have happened a long time ago. But we believe that all kids have the ability to learn self-control and self-regulation. Holding up people who have chosen a different way is one way of doing this. Some come to wage peace after a tragic event, such as James Brady, who took up the cause of gun control after being shot through the head during an assassination attempt on President Reagan, or Ron Kovic, who fought for peace and veterans’ rights after being shot and paralyzed in Vietnam. Some were born to it, such as the Dalai Lama, who was chosen when he was two years old. And some simply spoke up, like Samantha Smith or Pete Seeger.
A few wake up from their old life and decide to choose a different way. One example is Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite. Nobel was an armaments manufacturer in Sweden who held over 300 patents. When his brother died, the newspapers thought it was Alfred and reported on his death. One editorial was scathing because of his weaponry work, saying the world was a better place with Alfred dead. Shaken, Alfred determined that history would know him as a man of peace rather than war. And so in his will, he left his considerable fortune to fund a series of five prizes to be given each year, one of which goes to someone who has helped the world become a more peaceful place.
There is always a different way. We give our students constant feedback about how their words and actions are perceived, and how words can feed or poison those around us. Over the course of four months, we have seen a great deal of growth in how students interact with each other. They are choosing a different way, and we are proud of them!