During Allies In Action last week, we explored what is a Utopian / perfect society and how to create one. Students were divided into six small groups with some parameters and criteria. Before starting they were provided a basic understanding of some types of governments that exist around the world and what constitutes a society. This is no small ask for 30 kids in the second to fifth grade!
Each group were asked to come up with the following:
- Name of the society
- A symbol or flag
- List the values of the society
- Who’s in charge
- What do people do in their day
- Follow the Ally Pledge
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- Be courteous.
- Listen to the speaker and wait my turn to talk.
- Be responsible for my behavior and body.
- Participate in all activities with a positive attitude.
- Use positive and appropriate language.
- Be the best Ally I can be.
Out of the six groups, only one met all the requirements with ease. They were laughing together, asking each other opinions and making sure everyone felt included. The other five were…. Well let’s just say they needed a lot of support and intervention.
In these groups there was a lack of cooperation, little listening, and for some not much willingness to participate. Feelings got hurt with a few kids quitting and walking away. Many students deflected their part in isolating or ignoring a teammate and fought taking accountability for their own actions.
Two phrases regularly used in Allies In Action are:
Is your behavior adding or taking away from the group?
Who are you in control and in charge of?
These questions allow students to self-reflect and practice recognizing how their actions, words and attitudes affect others around them. While also offering a gentle reminder that we are only ever in control of ourselves. Frankly, adults could benefit from reflecting on these questions more often!
Just when it seemed a couple of the groups were going to implode something shifted. They found a rhythm, a cadence. They found ways to help guide those in resistance to begin collaborating and doing so in a way that worked for that individual. Some other groups forged ahead, without each member’s input. Those disenfranchised kids became frustrated repeatedly trying to compromise with a peer who only wanted things their way. By the end, a few apologizes had been made, alliances repaired, and stronger bonds grew between students.
An important tenet of Allies In Action is that one does not need to like someone to be respectful or compassionate. (This lesson felt particularly relevant to me after a long, frustrating, and painful local / city election this month.) Living in a society forces us to compromise, even when we don’t want to. Or in some cases we are provided impossible choices to complex issues that may or may not affect us personally. The willingness to adamantly disagree respectfully does not come easily. It takes patience, empathy, accountability. Something I hope these young Allies will take with them into their daily lives.