How to prevent another Columbine -
Inhale, Exhale and Smile
Our fund manager, Svetlana Kozlova, told us in detail about our activity, aims and methods of work. Why is what we do essential for teenagers?
A terrible accident similar to the tragedy in Columbine High School* happened in Perm last year. Two high school students armed with knives walked into a class of younger children. More than ten children were injured! It's not enough to say that the city was shocked. Everyone began to blame each other. But who is really guilty? Children, parents, school or the guardians who weren’t vigilant enough? As it always happens, the social networks were blamed: they said that the children read about the Columbine school experience and decided to repeat it to decide their problems.
In our city there are some social programs devoted to crime prevention and psychological aid for children and parents, but something went wrong in this system.
As a result, it was decided to strengthen protection for schools: now schools have created a 3-level system to detect socially disruptive behaviour among children.
In our point of view, something very important was overlooked. Why do children search for answers to their problems on the Internet, not in real life? How come there was nobody in their surroundings who was ready to answer their questions? Do their parents have no time? Are they too busy at work? Do they think that their child’s up-bringing is the school’s responsibility? What about the teachers? They are more occupied with writing reports. What about the existing municipal services? Not all the children go to school with pleasure. Some kids receive the offensive mark – dysfunctional! They’re not ready to speak frankly of their concerns, especially when they are obliged to answer these questions under psychological pressure in the form of an order.
Certainly, here is an important field of action for our organization, who is experienced at working with street children. The project Forgotten children became home for hundreds of kids, where we accepted and understood them, answered their most problematic questions and helped the majority to return to normal life.
One more problem is that there is a very big number of suicides among teenagers, more than 30 children every year. Teenagers are characterized with a very sensitive perception of the actual reality, with impulsive actions and reactions to certain events.
Our program “Outside of school: transforming teenage aggression into constructive activism” is aimed to help teenagers in realizing what their current life situation is and reacting appropriately to the situation. Briefly the essence of our organization’s activity can be expressed with the following words: Inhale, Exhale and Smile.
INHALE happens in the form of a training where teenagers work out what aggression, stress and emotions are. What is positive and negative about these feelings? What to do and how to change this state of being if it’s harmful for you and for your surroundings? We can see that INHALE is an accumulation of knowledge about what always follows a teenager.
EXHALE is a frank discussion about questions that teenagers worry about. During our lessons, the children write questions, put them into a cup and then read them one by one and discuss these questions all together.
This takes place outside of school in a friendly atmosphere. The conversation is always honest and very useful. The staff of the organization takes part in these discussions equally with children and can make useful adjustments in the discussed topics. Such lessons are a kind of EXHALE. Take off the pressure and feel unity. Because the problem that a teenager couldn’t share was discussed, the opinions of his/her groupmates were expressed and the results were made by the staff members.
SMILE is the name of our Saturday activities that we have in free form. All of them are educational and very fun! These are master classes, visiting cultural and sport events, museums, organizing ecological actions, excursions, etc.
Analysing feedback from those that we work with: pedagogues, volunteers, parents and the school administration. We noticed very important results. The behaviour of these children changed positively. The positive effects even touch children who don’t attend our lessons. Like the ripple effect. It also benefits and positively influences the microclimates in their classes and families.
Our main aim at the moment is to continue our partnership with school №133 and to make its microclimate better by working with another group of teenagers.
* The Columbine High School massacre was a school shooting and attempted bombing that occurred on April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School in Columbine, Colorado, United States