"Mark, a severe ADHD kid who used to throw temper tantrums at the least provocation, now tries to resolve conflict with words. According to his mom, we have made more progress with him in three months than his psychologist has made in three years."
Gary Ritterhaus, Educator speaking about the Atrium Character for Kids – Life Skills Program
In this area we are reproducing a few letters written to the Atrium by teachers who underwent the Atrium Education for Peace Training Program. Reading these will really help you in understanding the practical importance of the programs.
Marvin Garbeh Davis was from Liberia, West Africa and is the first teacher to train in the Atrium Education for Peace Curricula. Marvin was a refugee in The Gambia when he made his first contact with the Atrium and consequently enrolled in the program. He graduated and went back home where he started the Common Ground Society, a local nonprofit dedicated to teaching young people to understand the underlying causes of conflict. The letter below was written to the President of the Atrium Society and prospective teachers interested in studying the Atrium Education for Peace programs.
Dear Prospective Teacher
I completed the Youth Peace Literacy/Education for Peace (YPL/EFP) in 2004 and with the assistance of the Atrium Society the following year started the Common Ground Society Peace School. In reflection I can only say one thing: enrolling in the EFP was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my personal life and career.
The skills I acquired, as a student has been very useful and suitable in my work especially as it relates to dealing with diverse groups and populations. Besides, the training helped in understanding myself and in transforming my ways in relating with others in a sane and intelligent way.
Unlike other peace education or conflict resolution courses, the YPL/EFP program does not offer solutions, methods, conclusions or hopes for peace. Neither does it advocate a particular ideology for peace. On the contrary, and exhilaratingly too, the course raises a platform that allows for mutual dialogues between teacher and student on questions about what prevents peace. This pattern of deliberations creates an inquiry into the nature and structure of conflict thereby bringing the student in direct contact with what creates conflict.
One of the greatest challenges that face humanity in the 21st century understands what creates conflict or what prevents peace. Having an insight into this very important question to me is the most edifying bestowal the YPL/EFP program has presented me. The YPL/EFP program is truly a worthwhile human journey to embark upon.
Marvin G Davis
Certified Teacher/Trainer in the Youth Peace Literacy/Education for Peace Program Founder/Director Common Ground Society Liberia
Dear Atrium Society readers,
My name is Sally Hedley and I live in Chico, CA. I am a Liberal Studies graduate from California State University, Chico. I am training to become an elementary school teacher. I met Marvin Davis at my first placement at Marigold Elementary School. His powerful speech about his classroom in Liberia touched my heart because we have so much wealth and resources in America and do not truly appreciate or share them with the world. Also, he invited anyone who wanted training to contact Jean Webster-Doyle.
In January 2009, I completed my seven-week training with Dr. Terrence Webster-Doyle and his wife Jean. They are kind, intelligence, and sensitive people who strive to make a difference in the lives of children as well as adults. We went through Dr. Webster-Doyle’s curriculum –Why is Everybody Always Picking on Me? We also discussed his other books on the same concept- the source of conflict, which is psychological conditioning.
I learned that from the playground to the battlefield the same problems of prejudice and ignorance arise from perceived images in the mind. The images are linked to a fight or flight response that says, “Identification with this group (race, tribe, organization, state, country) ensures my survival.” This fragmented thinking is the source of bullying and disharmony. It is the reason the bully-victim cycle has such a stronghold over us.
I am now at another elementary school for the second half of my credential training. The students at this school have incredible odds against them including poverty, racism, and constant bullying from society, the school, and each other. There is physical and psychological bullying bombarding their lives.
I decided that even though I am “just” the student teacher, these students needed to understand where their conflict was coming from and to learn strategies for deterring bullying and living peacefully. As a class, we have successfully completed the first and two lessons. I divided each lesson into manageable segments that we do every Wednesday and Friday. The first week, the students and I created a chart of “Ways we've been bullied” and “Ways we’ve bullied.” The children had many examples of sibling and school bullying. I had them imitate what a bully and victim look like.
The next lessons showed that the students are beginning to understand the concepts and stories represented in Dr. Webster-Doyle’s curriculum and handbook. One student showed me a drawing of bullies and victims that had masks on. He said, “Mrs. Hedley, those are the masks people wear” and was referring to how outward actions are used to cover up inward feelings. In other words, bullies are victims in disguise. It was incredible to see their drawings and sentences that answered the questions: “What is a bully?” and “What is a victim?” We talked about the different types of bullies and victims and how the bully-victim cycle is what prevents peace in our classroom and our lives. I included many examples from my childhood and told them how my sister and I used to continually bully each other and that we couldn’t break the cycle because we were playing the roles of bully and victim repeatedly.
Thank you for your time.
Dear Atrium Society,
My name is Daniel Moglen, and I currently reside in Chico, CA. Being a substitute teacher, I see a variety of students and classes, ranging from elementary to high school level. Although each class is amazingly different, each class has distinct similarities.
One similarity is that the students exhibit patterns of conditioned thinking. They go throughout the day reacting to cues/bells/words. It is as if they are herded to one place to another, physically and mentally. They line up when the bell rings, become quiet when certain words are sung, etc.
This conditioned thinking is useful from the perspective of the teacher (and perhaps even society). How else would you get a group of thirty kids to quiet themselves?
The drawback is that the conditioned thinking so permeates their experience that they often do not realize when they are causing harm to other children. This is manifested in forms of emotional and physical bullying.
Trapped in the bully/victim cycle, it is commonplace for one student to hurt the feelings of another, even when the so-called consequences are certain to come. The teachers are even reacting in their own conditioned way, attempting to resolve the conflict through talking or intervention. Little is done to prevent it.
How can this cycle be broken to prevent children from become adults who bully? Being predisposed to conditioning, they may even become warriors, putting themselves and others in harm’s way.
This prevention is at the root of the bully curriculum that I'm learning from Dr. Terrence and Jean Webster-Doyle. Their work is extensive in the field of peace education. With care and passion, they have constructed this curriculum.
The students have responded well to the lessons. Given that bullying is an experience that every student can relate to, they become alive with sharing their experiences.
Making this issue a central one at schools will show to the students, as well as to the teachers, that we bully because of our conditioning. And by becoming aware of our conditioning, we can break it.
I’m extremely grateful to Dr. Terrence and Jean Webster-Doyle for their strength and perseverance in their work.
Sincerely, Daniel Moglen
Dear Perspective Teachers:
My involvement in the Bullying Education Program with the Atrium Society has reassured me of the importance of every teacher, parent, and child to learn the essential life skills that will help facilitate a healthier relationship with the people around us.
I am an educator from Japan that has taught children from kindergarten through third grade. Currently, the Japanese education system is failing drastically to facilitate a supportive environment in which children feel safe from being bullied at home, at school and in our communities. Hence, Japan is in anguish as bullied kids commit suicide in large numbers. According to Japanese research conducted in 2008, children as early as 9 years old have thought of about taking their lives because of being bullied at school. However, there seems to be little but no intervention within the Japanese society to do anything about the issue.
The bullying issue is not merely related to Japan only but is in fact a worldwide epidemic. Within North America alone, there is a variety of bullying intervention programs. However, one thing that I have noticed is that they only touch on the surface issues of bullying. They teach peaceful conflict resolution skills that may be useful in the short term, but they don’t cure the deep-rooted issue of bullying in preventing it.
The program at Atrium society has helped me to understand that bullying is in fact a learned process between people. From a young age, we are all conditioned by erroneous information about other people around us who we think are different, hence habitually compelling us to bully them merely because they are a threat to our own ethnocentric identity. The bullying program at Atrium society is crafted in ways so children and the teacher can unravel and break free from this type of destructive conditioned thinking.
As my first phase of training with the Atrium society is coming to an end, I am looking forward to implementing the Bullying Program in Japan very soon. Hence my goal is to help children to feel confident with their unique characteristics and eliminate judgments on others because they are different from us. Though the task to assist millions of struggling children to be free of bullying seems like the impossible assignment, I know it’s worth it if I can influence just one child to break free from the harmful effects of the bully/victim cycle.
Love and care, Takemi Iwasawa
Dear Jean Webster-Doyle
On behalf of the residents and staff of the Reigh Allen Centre, I would like to express our sincere appreciation and gratitude to the Atrium society for partnering with us in developing a pilot project that will assist youth at risk in gaining skills and insights on how to cope with conflict in their lives. Dr. Terrence Webster-Doyle’s work provides “hands on” solutions to the problem using his comprehensive books, curricula and fun, youth centered activities, utilizing both Mental and Physical Martial Arts.
Reigh Allen Centre, Nova Scotia, Canada
Hi Dr. Webster-Doyle,
I just want to let you know that we recently wrote and acquired a new grant utilizing your Martial Arts for Peace curriculum (MAP) As you know our youth at risk 10-week summer program was a huge hit. The nicest part of this most recent grant is that it is for 2 years. This will give us more time to collect data and evaluate the long-term benefits of violence prevention and anger management in emotionally handicapped and severely emotionally disturbed youth utilizing a combination of the MAP program and cognitive behavioral therapy. We are so excited! We would like to thank you again for the role you have played in the development of this innovative new program.
Joanne Correia-Kent and Donna Lavalle
Smith Community Mental Health Center, Sunrise, Florida