Health class part deux.
I have been initiating discussions about healthy relationships with the high school kids. First I give them a survey of 10 questions, to be answered with a current, former or imagined future relationship in mind. The freshmen girls assured me that all 14 of them are “definitely” in relationships! I did note that some of the boys rolled their eyes…anyway I have given this survey to all 4 grades now, and the question that every class has asked clarification for is, “is the relationship intellectually stimulating?” Understanding that anything associated with “intellectual” must have to do with school, they aren’t certain they want to associate it with their boyfriend/girlfriend. Another question that generates discussion is whether a relationship enriches life or just alters it. Most of the younger ones agree with the latter, not certain at all that life is better in a relationship but agreeing that life is different. Is it ok to have different friends? yes. How about do different things? yes, within reason – going to a party alone once in a committed relationship is a no-no, especially if dancing occurring. Which sets me off. “But I love to dance!! Why wouldn’t I dance with my friends at a party, regardless of having a partner or not??” Pause. “Ms. Becky. Have you been to a party in Camden in the 21st century?” That would be a no. “Then you DON’T know what you are talking about!” Point well taken.
We spoke of the impact social media has had on relationships, as well as having phones with constant texting. How old did I feel to say, “You know in my day when my boyfriend and I said good night – it was really good night! He didn’t dare call the house phone after 9:30pm!!!” But these days your partner can communicate with you at all hours. And it can be controlling and unhealthy. There was agreement across the board on this one.
The seniors got into a deep discussion of when it is – and isn’t – ok to hit someone. As in, it is NEVER ok for a guy to hit a girl, but it is ok for a girl to hit a guy sometimes. This from both sexes in the classroom…when I remonstrate, I am told that guys are stronger and therefore can seriously hurt a girl. But girls, being weak, aren’t likely to hurt a guy, nor do guys’ emotions get hurt easily. Plus girls have to vent some way, right? At this point the bell rings, but I let them know that this discussion isn’t over, even as I wonder how I am going to effectively make my point. Fortunately, last Thursday, God gave me my talking points via one of the presenters at UP’s Summit. The Reverend Aisha Brooks-Lytle, from Mt. Airy Presbyterian Church, spoke eloquently about non-violent communication. AND I remembered when our daughter Aubrey was learning about the roots of violence in high school so I will also be sharing a pyramid of violence, which begins at the bottom with partner conflict and shouting –> intimidation, controlling behavior, destruction of property –>Threats of homicide, physical assaults, use of weapons –>serious or fatal injuries.
Do we think twice when we yell? That it is indeed violent to do so? That having a home filled with conflict, feeling it is ok to lash out at our loved ones, even being “ok with girls hitting guys” can escalate? Or are we so in the moment, so self-absorbed as to think it is more important to express our feelings than to think about the other person? And in this most violent city in the nation, will it make a difference to discuss this? I do believe that changing one person can have a ripple effect – it is certainly what we teach pastors at Credo. And so it is my prayer that when I teach this to the seniors and freshmen on Wednesday, at least a few of them will take it to heart and think twice about the way they respond to their anger.