Sunday, March 11, 2012

Meeting Notes 3/11/12

Hey Hippogriffs!

AWESOME meeting today! With every meeting I just get more and more excited about how this group is evolving and coming together. You rock!!

Here are some notes from today for those of you who couldn't make it and for all of us to help remember what we discussed. We talked about a LOT so this post will be long!

First, some news:
  • We welcomed Sarah to our group! Sarah has read all the Harry Potter books and says she would be a Gryffindor if she went to Hogwarts. Welcome Sarah!
  • Thanks for everyone's participation in First Friday! We all agreed it was really fun and especially great because YOU led it - that is, the kids! Great job everyone! And thanks to those of you who made it for the Read-In the next day - unfortunately we didn't get a great turn-out for that, so maybe if we decide to do it again in the future we can think of some ways to make that work better. But Jacques Angelino, who coordinates the food donations to Athens County, told me this morning that he really appreciated the donations of canned goods and books that we gave him, so thank you everyone!
  • We reviewed the latest Magical Acts of Kindness House Cup standings:
    • Ravenclaw: 54
    • Slytherin: 32
    • Hufflepuff: 16
    • Gryffindor: 15
As a reminder, the House Cup goes through the end of March, so keep doing good deeds and add them to the hourglass of your choice! (c'mon, Gryffindor!)
  • We talked about the Harry Potter Alliance's new campaign, Hunger is Not a Game: In response to The Hunger Games book trilogy and upcoming movie, this campaign will begin tomorrow and focus on helping to end world hunger. We've already done some things to help end hunger right here in Ohio, so I know we'll be able to think of ways to help. Let's keep thinking about this and watch the announcements as they come.
  • The OSU Quidditch League is a group of Ohio State college students who play a Muggle version of real-life Quidditch, and they are having a special event for Harrry Potter fans that I know you'll all be interested in. They'll be reading aloud various Quidditch-related passages from the Harry Potter books at the Upper Arlington library, and then going outside to show us how they play Quidditch! How cool is that?! It's on March 31st and starts at 1:00 and goes to 4:00 p.m. You can RSVP on their facebook page here:
  • Finally, we'll be leading Justice Sunday once again on March 25 at both services at First UU, 9:15 and 11:00 a.m. We're going to lead the kids through a similar exercise about bullying that we did today, only YOU will be the leaders since now you're trained Dumbledore Army members!

So then we started our discussion on bullying, which is going to be our focus for March. This will lead into further discussions about racism, sexism, and homophobia in April, May, and June. We started by telling some stories of different ways we have all either been bullied, or seen bullying happen:
  • Rachel and Sarah both talked about similar situations where people were saying mean things about a girl in each of their schools. At Rachel's school, the girl being talked about was a lesbian, and kids were saying mean things about her for that. At Sarah's, the things being said were that the girl lies and wasn't a good friend. In both cases, there were things said behind their backs - gossip and whispering - as well as to their faces, and also in both cases, teachers got involved with different results. We talked about how it doesn't always help when schools have a one-day assembly or something to talk about homophobia or bullying, because it's not really enough to make a difference. But in Sarah's school, the teachers talked directly with the source of the gossip and they were able to work it out and improve things for the girl who was being bullied.
  • Lucia talked about a situation she witnessed on the school bus, where some older kids were picking on our 5 year old neighbor - both saying mean things to him as well as punching him. Lucia tried to get them to stop, but they ignored her. When they got home, Lucia told his parents what happened, and his parents called the school. The school suspended the bullies from the bus, but only for a few days. Meanwhile, our neighbor is afraid to ride the bus anymore and his parents are just driving him to school instead. And the bullies have picked a new target - a girl who they tease sometimes. We noticed that bullies often pick on kids who they think are weaker somehow than themselves - maybe smaller or younger like in this case.
  • Emma told us about a time when she was teasing a friend of hers, not meaning to hurt her feelings, but her friend felt like she was bullying her. They didn't talk for a while and it divided their group of friends. Eventually with the help of a guidance counselor, the group of friends talked about it and worked it out. Since then, Emma is still friends with this girl but it's not quite the same as before. Lucia talked about how she has a friend who is sometimes physically rough with her - she knows she's not trying to be mean, but sometimes she kind of rough-houses a bit too much. In both cases, the so-called "bullies" are friends who don't actually intend any harm, but their "victims" feel differently about it.
  • Willow talked about a situation when she was at her friend's house and her friend's neighbor kept trying to get them to do things they didn't want to do, including going in a nearby creek. The neighbor called them "babies" because they didn't want to do it, and kept pestering them. They continued to say no until finally the neighbor went away.
  • Rachel told us about how she and her friends sometimes say "I love you" to each other on Facebook, and how the same kid who often gossips about the lesbian at her school tried to make fun of them on Facebook for saying that to each other. Rachel responded by calling what he said "funny" and a lot of her friends clicked "like" on her own comment, which made her feel good and took the power away from the bully's comments.
So then we talked about ways we could fight these different kinds of bullying, and framed them in terms of some of the wizard spells we know from Harry Potter:
  • Protego - Protection: surrounding yourself with friends, especially if you can outnumber the bully or bullies wherever you go, creating a sort of safe space around yourself. Seeking out help from teachers and other adults is another way to protect yourself
  • Expecto Patronus - a spirit animal who helps fight for you: in the real world, we can focus on the positive things in our lives that give us strength. For instance, friends or siblings who love you and look up to you, or focusing on your talents and what makes you a cool person, and symbols that remind you of these things (one example was a "BFF" half-heart necklace where your friend has the other half.) We can make art and write poems and things that can serve as Patronuses.
  • Expelliarmus - Disarming: some ways to take away a bully's power include ignoring or distracting them or their audience, siding with the victim, going to an adult, and education. This one had a lot of parallels to Muffliato, below.
  • Muffliato - Voice muffling/silencing: again, ignoring a bully, or taking away their audience by distracting them away, siding with the victim and outnumbering the bully. Countering gossip with the truth.
  • Stupefy - Stun: We had a lot of fun discussing this one! Here your goal is to basically confuse the bully by not giving them the reaction they expect, and taking them off guard, sometimes in funny ways. For instance, saying things like "thank you" when they say something mean, or "what did you mean by that?" forcing them to explain over and over again until they just give up, because most of the time a bully hasn't really thought that much about why they are saying mean things. You can also act a little crazy or confused yourself, or turn what they say around on them to show them how silly they are being.
Then we broke into groups and did some role-playing with the situations everyone brought up above as examples. We practiced being the bully, the victim, the bystander, and the adult, and tried out the different methods we thought of to fight bullying. One way we thought of handling a situation where you are friends with someone who is bullying someone else is to tell your friend to "back off" - which would be more effective coming from you, their friend, than from the person being bullied, because your friend will listen to you more. You could also then say something like "sorry, my friend isn't feeling well today" or whatever, giving your friend a chance to save face and back down, because it's a lot easier to stop being a bully when you're given an "out" like this, rather than being made to apologize and feel bad about yourself, which is the last thing a bully wants to do.

So again, great job everyone! Keep all these in mind when we help the rest of the kids learn these methods at Justice Sunday - just like Harry and his friends did with Dumbledore's Army! And let us know if you have more bullying-related situations at your school and how you deal with it, hopefully some of these ideas will help! And please keep the ideas coming!

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