In October you were introduced to the Mendez Too Good for Violence program that is being taught in Greene County public schools by Twin County Prevention Educators. Over the course of the next few months I’d like to share more in-depth information with you on the actual lessons and the rationale behind each one. This program is designed to be taught starting in kindergarten. So that’s where I’ll begin, but please keep in mind the program is a series of consecutive lessons that build on each other over the entire course of elementary and middle schools. With that in mind and the understanding that middle schoolers have been exposed to the concepts taught in earlier grades we’ll look at the themes in the first lessons at every grade level.
Lesson one in Kindergarten and grades one to three focuses on peace, and peaceful people. The words are defined by the children who are invited to describe and draw their perception of peaceful places and peacemakers. The emphasis on peace and being a peaceful person seems obvious and is supported by research. In the kindergarten Teacher’s Manual on page one lesson one, Mendez states, “Research shows that school-based violence prevention programs can only be effective when students learn prosocial attitudes and skills within the context of a caring classroom community.” So, the prevention educators first task is to reinforce the understanding that the classroom is a place where each child is affirmed as a valuable person and that every child has a sense of belonging within the group. Establishing these fundamental concepts is basic if the child is to be able to learn more complex skills. Learning is hampered when the environment is hostile or simply indifferent. The lesson themes based on peace and acceptance are introduced using a variety of techniques. Games, songs, puppets, and other activities enhance the learning experience while teaching respect for self and others. Individual differences are applauded as “special” qualities to be appreciated. This is the environment that sets the stage for positive social and personal interaction. This is where we begin to combat violence.
Goal Setting is the first lesson taught each year in grades 4 through 8. This concept is introduced in 4th grade because research has shown that early exposure to the basic elements of setting and accomplishing goals helps the child to utilize this skill as he grows (Mendez, Teacher’s Manual grade 4, pg.25, Lesson 1 Rationale). The goal setting concept is reintroduced in grades 5 through 8 with age appropriate elements added at each level. Consistent yearly review of the topic helps the student internalize the concepts that are introduced and make them part of their value system. Research has told us that students who can, and do, set realistic goals develop a stronger sense of self and make better decisions as a result (Mendez Teacher’s Manuals grades 4,5,6,7,8). Students are encouraged to set a realistic short-term goal, develop a plan of action to accomplish that goal and consider the potential obstacles that may hinder then in that pursuit. Role play and small group problem solving activities allow the students to respond to life situations under professional supervision with the focus on positive thinking and actions resulting in positive outcomes. The character traits that are targeted here are courage, responsibility, and self-discipline, all of which are essential in building that strong sense of self and enabling better decision making. A strong sense of self and better decision making are two necessary protective factors for preventing violence and substance abuse .Positive character traits and social skills are the tools our children need to lead healthy lives.
Reach Helen Exum at firstname.lastname@example.org.