On March 29, 2016 we held our latest Campaign Nonviolence Conference Call. On the call we welcomed guest speaker Robin Wildman from Broad Rock Elementary School in Rhode Island to speak about K-12 Nonviolence Education. Below you will find the notes and audio from this call. You can also hear more from Robin Wildman on the Love and Revolution Radio Program here.
Campaign Nonviolence National Conference Call
March 29, 2016, 5pm Pacific/ 8pm Eastern (60 minutes)
Listen to the call here.
Welcome – Ryan Hall/Rivera Sun
Opening Reflection – Veronica Pelicaric
Today’s world is traveling in some strange directions. You see that the world is going towards destruction and violence and the specialty of violence is to create hatred among people and to create fear. I am a believer in nonviolence and I say that no peace or tranquility will descend upon the people of the world until nonviolence is practiced because nonviolence is love and it stirs courage in people. – Bacha Khan
Rivera mentioned that Bacha Khan was the contemporary of Gandhi. He started schools throughout his area of what is now Pakistan.
Campaign Nonviolence Overview in 2016 – Rivera
Roll Call – Ryan read the list of people on the call. Over 70 people registered from across the US.
Conversation with Robin Wildman: Robin is a 5th grade teacher in Rhode Island and has begun K-12 Nonviolence Education as a key component of her classes.
I’m going to start off talking about my own personal journey to nonviolence and how I actually arrived here tonight on this phone call. I’ve been teaching for 25 years in the public school system most of that time as a 5th grade teacher and about 15 years ago I was teaching a program with the police department in my town called Community Works. The goal was to teach children about how to keep their communities safe and each session a police officer would come in and we would team teach a lesson together. One day the police captain brought in a guest and his wife, somebody I had not met and later was introduced to. That man’s name was Dr. Bernard Lafayette Jr. Dr. Lafayette worked very closely with Martin Luther King jr. during the Civil Rights Movement. Dr. Lafayette was a participant in the sit-in movements, he was a freedom rider to desegregate bus transportation, he was the person who went to Selma Alabama to do research to see if Selma was a place that Dr. King would agree to do a movement there. He came to visit my 5th grade class which was amazing but the most amazing thing was that the kids captured his heart which is what the way he likes to describe it today. He kept coming back to the class and talking to the students about his life, about Dr. King and about nonviolence and not only were the students learning but I was learning right along with them.
One day one of the students in my class asked Dr Lafayette, “we want to go where Dr. King did his work, we want you to take us there.” He was so taken aback that he said okay, you have to raise enough money so that you can go and in 3 months we raised $20,000 with the help of our local community and people from all around the country who heard about the kids trip and their desire to go to Montgomery and to other places down south. We ended up taking a 5 day “field trip” to Alabama and Georgia and Dr. Lafayette had us meet all kinds of important people. We met Johnny Carr who was Rosa Parks dear friend, we met Martin Luther King,III, we talked to CT Vivian. Not only was that a trip that changed the children’s lives and their parents that came with them but it was also transformational for myself.
Before we had gone on the trip Dr. Lafayette had formalized some nonviolence training for the students and their parents and myself. During that time I started thinking about my own philosophy of teaching and the way I interacted with the students in my classroom. The training that Dr. Lafayette provided for us was based on the life work of Dr. King on his philosophy of nonviolence. We call that philosophy Kingian nonviolence and that’s the type of nonviolence that we focus on, and when I say we, there’s a huge network of us across the country and around the world doing these types of trainings. When we came back from the trip I started teaching my next years students some of the things that I had learned from Dr. Lafayette. I thought at that time that I could write a manual that other educators could use to teach the same things that I was teaching my students. For example we teach 6 principles of nonviolence which is our value system. They’re very easy to understand for kids, but when Dr. King wrote about the principles they were too lofty for children to understand, so Dr. Lafayette said I could re-word those so that youth could understand the words but not change the meaning of Dr. King’s principals.
Those 6 Principles are:
Principle 1) Nonviolence is a way of life for brave people. Principle 2) The peaceful community is the goal for the future. Principle 3) Attack problems not people. Principle 4) Know and do what is right even if it is difficult. Principle 5) Avoid hurting the spirit and body of yourself and others. Principle 6) The universe is on the side of justice. This is what we called the will of nonviolence. These principles give us the strength to do the work that we need to do to solve conflicts nonviolently.
The second major part of Kingian Nonviolence are the steps to reconcile conflict. There are six steps just like there are 6 principles: Step 1) Gather information. Step 2) Educate yourself and others. Step 3) Have a personal commitment to want to solve the problem. Step 4) Negotiation Step 5) Direct action. Step 6) Reconciliation.
We don’t only teach our youth to solve conflicts we teach them to reconcile conflicts, which is very different from a conflict resolution program. This is not a program it’s a way of life. There’s a big difference between a program and a way of life because a program is taught by a teacher maybe 1 year or 2 years and then the next year after that kids might forget about it because that’s what they did in 4th grade or 5th grade. Instead, we are teaching students to transform their lives just as nonviolence has transformed mine.
After I wrote this manual I thought I could do some teacher trainings which I did early on and I spent the next 15 years teaching nonviolence to my students. What was nice about the school that I was at was that not only was I training my students in nonviolence but they would go out to all the other classrooms in the school and teach all the students, k-4, what they had learned.
Each month my students would prepare a presentation, a puppet show, role plays, all kinds of fun things, teaching the kids songs, things that they made up themselves so that all the kids in the school had access to nonviolence.
About 6 years ago I was transferred along with all the 5th grade teachers in the district to a new school and that’s the school I’m at right now, Broad Rock School. It’s a 5th grade elementary school on the downstairs level and 6th grade middle school on the upstairs level. I’ve been there for about 6 years. About a year ago, some of my friends at school approached me and said that they had heard me often talk about how my kids could solve their own problems using nonviolence and they wanted to know how to do that with their students. So this grassroots effort kind of took off. 15 staff people were trained in nonviolence,
What was nice about the first training was that not only did we have 15 staff people but amongst those people were classroom teachers, special educators, teaching assistants, the principal and vice principal, the art teacher, the music teacher and the librarian. When we are done we thought this would be something that we should probably try and get other people to join. We decided after the first training that we wanted to create a nonviolent school and that actually did not come from me, it came from some of the people who participated in the training. One of our first actions to do that was to go out and recruit more staff to join the trainings.
Up until this point in time I’ve done four separate trainings for staff. We’ve trained 36 staff members at our school in Kingian Nonviolence and we’ve also created long-term and short-term goals in our two-year action plan. We’re coming to the end of our first year and successfully we have accomplished all of our goals on that plan.
The first goal after recruiting for other trainings was to create a nonviolence committee. That committee was not only for people who had attended the training but was also open to anybody on the staff who wanted to join. We talked about ways that we could change the culture and climate at the school so that we could be a nonviolent school, which is our goal.
The committee divided up into some subcommittees to do work on some of our action plans, for example we have a committee that plans monthly assemblies and each assembly has a nonviolence theme. We have another committee that worked on some of the required district initiatives that we have, such as an anti-bullying program. Some of those pieces have fallen by the wayside so what we did as a nonviolence committee was say that at our school everything we do falls under the umbrella of nonviolence and asked how can we fit this into the district initiative.
Our principal has volunteered to take one of our 6 principles every month that she announces on the loudspeaker every morning. This month’s she’s been talking about principal two “the peaceful community is the goal for the future” and instead of a moment of silence she asks the students to set an intention for the day by thinking about which ever principle she announces. We have also created a pamphlet for parents with information on that and next year one of our goals is to do some parent trainings.
One of the things that I’ve learned about working on this model I’m creating is that it needs to be flexible and fit in with the school culture that’s already present. I’m just about to end a 10 week training that I’ve been doing in Providence at an elementary school. We’ve had to adjust some of the expectations as we look at the school needs and the student population and how to address those via nonviolence.
I’m also very mindful of time because I know time is of the essence when you’re a teacher. It seems every year we have less and less time to teach. One of the things that I do when I train my students starting on the first day of school every single day for about 2 or 3 weeks is, I go through all of the nonviolence modules, one lesson a day and let the kids know that this is the most important thing that they’re going to learn during the year because it’s a life skill and if we can help them solve their problems then they can learn better and they could be better focused.
After I’ve taught all the different modules and lessons then I think of ways to incorporate nonviolence into the curricular areas that I teach. I teach five subject areas because I’m an elementary school teacher, so for example today I had to teach test-prep for state testing and we were given a packet of information. I didn’t really care too much for the stories included so I knew of a woman named Wangari Maathai who was an activist in Kenya who planted trees to help the environment. I collected some articles and a book about her. At the end I went through the illustrations in the book and I asked the kids what of the six steps did she use to solve the problem in Kenya about lack of trees growing and the kids got to practice the idea of using steps to solve any conflict. That’s the practical usage of some of that Kingian information that the kids are getting. Always when we talk about books there’s a problem in every story you read, so we ask how was the problem solved, was it solved nonviolently, how can the characters solve the problem nonviolently. That’s how I incorporate nonviolence into the daily life of our classroom.
One of the most important things about Kingian nonviolence is that we talk about agape which is the love of human beings since they are part of our human family. That’s something really important that we teach to our students. We may not like what people are doing but we still love them for the people that we believe they can become. Our love, our Agape, will help them do that. In my classroom, when we have a problem that we need to solve we sit in our Agape Circle and that’s a safe place where students can share their thoughts and ideas to solve problems.
For example the other day I said to the students that I was hesitant to let them choose a partner for an activity that we were going to do because often when you choose partners you choose your friends and then we end up talking rather than doing work. I asked the students to talk amongst themselves and come up with a solution to that issue. I stepped to the back of the room and just let them do their Agape circle on their own and they did a great job coming up with some solutions.
In closing what I’d like to say about nonviolence education is that when I look at my career I’ve taught for 25 years, the first ten not knowing about nonviolence but kind of leaning in that direction. I didn’t really have a formal language for it, I felt like I was more like a dictator telling students to do what I say because I’m saying that they should. After being trained myself in nonviolence and practicing it in my own life I’ve come to realize that the best way to be an educator is to teach students how to manipulate the world on their own and that I’m a guide for them and I can guide them with a nonviolent heart. I want them to look at each other as people who they count on and who they love. I want them to see their classroom community as one of support and that if one of us falls we have others around to pick us up and help us along the way.
Date and Time of Next Meeting:
Tuesday, April 26th, 8pm ET/5pm PT. RSVP HERE FOR THE APRIL 26 CALL!
Guest Speakers: Michael Nagler and Stephanie Van Hook with the Metta Center for Nonviolence speaking about connecting the dots between issues and how to build constructive actions for change. Also on May 31 we will have Erica Chenoweth on the call, mark your calendars!
Thank you to Robin Wildman and everyone on the call.
We closed with the CNV Pledge