POSTED ON BEHALF OF MARG BRENNAN
Every year in October, Prince George’s County schools participate in National Men Make a Difference Day throughout different schools. Below are two news briefs, photos, and a slideshow about the event that were released by the county:
http://www1.pgcps.org/communications/press.aspx?id=164724 (various events throughout the day)
At my middle school, the event runs for the entire day. Fathers, uncles, siblings, cousins, and many other community members are invited to come in for breakfast, participate in workshops throughout the day, and attend or participate in any student classes. We had over 100 participants this year (which in the three years I’ve been at the school has been the greatest turnout yet) and my students thoroughly enjoyed bringing guests into the classroom and interacting with the other participants. Some spoke about their careers or families and answered any questions that students had. Participants could join the children for lunch and they had a closing lunch provided for them, as well as a round-table discussion with students. Some of the participants were already established mentors within our community and informed students of resources available to them.
I think that this event can be incorporated into any subject or class. As a math teacher, I really enjoyed having the participants in and out of my classroom all day, but I would have said that regardless of the subject I teach, as their contributions really didn’t have much to do with math specifically. With more planning, I think that these participants could be incorporated into subject-specific lesson plans, but it was definitely not necessary to do that.
Many of my students do not consistently have a positive male role model and most responded very well to the visitors in the classroom. For these students in particular it was helpful that some of the participants were established community mentors and it opens some doors for students outside of school. Because many of our guests spoke to students about careers and future decisions, the type of event we planned I think works best with middle and high school students, who have the capacity to have those conversations; the same type of event could definitely be used with younger children as well, who are just as much in need of the mentoring. The formal educational setting worked well, although I could definitely envision this in a less formal community venue as well.
In my opinion, the potential for the knowledge, skills and attitudes that students could develop from participating in this event and engaging with the guests is significant. I speak to many parents and guardians that start conversations with something like, “Well I’m trying my best, but I’m working two or three jobs and it’s just me.” I have several students who don’t have the opportunity often to have meaningful conversations with adults beyond their teachers and this provides the opportunity for them to really learn from others in their community. Students learn about opportunities to become involved in events outside of school – many are not involved in sports, after-school activities, or any outside activities and end up with a lot of unsupervised downtime; they are exposed to different opportunities with events like these.
From my vantage point, this event supported multiple pillars of peace education, but I saw the most from Community Building (as discussed above) and Skill Building. Some of these role models really went above and beyond and discussed relevant issues with students. I watched some of my more resistant students open up, even if it was only in the form of letting them help them with classwork. I am often asked when “so and so’s dad” or “that police officer” will be coming back to the room. They touched on things like conflict and related it to when they were in middle school or trying to fit in and figure out who you are. For many of my students, this message, and especially where it was coming from – men from their community that they were able to relate to – had an impact. My students are at an age where they start to make decisions that will have a lasting impact on the rest of their lives and they often do not have the capacity to make the best decisions in those situations. This program, which I wish happened more often, plants some seeds for more informed, thoughtful decisions.