HEAR – Helping Everyone Achieve Respect – helps student learn about the essential connection between respectful behaviors and healthy relationships. In contrast, students also discover the different forms and consequences of disrespectful behaviors. They brainstorm good strategies for preventing and intervening in bullying situations and discuss ways to initiate positive change in their school culture. Indeed, data show students’ understanding is impacted by HEAR, and we’ve been fortunate to collaborate with great partners in order to provide opportunities for over 600,000 students to participate in the HEAR program across the country.
Recently, we implemented an optional instructional delivery model for HEAR: teaching high school teens to facilitate the workshop in middle school classrooms. One such case involved twenty-three high school students at The Woodstock Academy in Connecticut who volunteered on a student holiday, along with about 40 middle school teachers, to learn how to teach HEAR. In subsequent weeks, they applied what they learned by facilitating the presentation in numerous classrooms totaling about 400 students at nearby Woodstock Middle School.
The benefits of this model of older teens teaching younger students not only positively impact those in 6-8th grades, there are also many benefits to the high school instructors themselves. Based on results from surveys and interviews, here are some advantages to using this instructional model and the key factors for its effectiveness:
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” The high school students not only wholeheartedly trained, co-planned, and studied, but they also offered a certain spirit that was both inspiring and motivating. According to Wendy Durand, the middle school principal, “Feedback from students has been overwhelmingly positive with many teens wanting to come back and teach it again.” The teen instructors were observed to be energetic, optimistic, prepared, and excited. This is why the HEAR message captivated the middle school audience, according to Ms. Durand. Student survey data also provide evidence of the teen instructors’ effectiveness:
- 81% of the middle school students stated that they learned useful ideas for what to do if they witness bullying
- 77% said they learned what to do if cyberbullied
- 85% were inspired to try harder to respect and include others
When asked what it is about HEAR that both age levels (middle and high school) relate to the most, one teen responded, “Respect. A lot of the students connected to wanting mutual respect between each other. They seemed enthralled with the idea of a happier community and showed interest in actually wanting to invoke change.” Several also pointed out that since tween students and teen instructors belong to the same generation, they connect to the same topics, such as cyberbullying, and feel safe sharing their thoughts with each other. One instructor added, “When everyone participated and felt confident sharing their opinions, [this was] music to my ears!” Truly, students teaching students can provide opportunities for common language and a shared sense of community and experience – in other words, an optimal context for many learners!
The high school students appreciated their position of influence and plan to continue as positive role models. One said, “Normally, I am very aware of what I say to other people, but I feel like talking to the middle school students opened my eyes even more to how words can truly impact the lives of others.” Another said HEAR inspired them to support others and make sure everyone has a voice when they are feeling down or need to talk about a problem. Others commented that teaching HEAR inspired them to continue the good work of taking a stand for what matters, working with kids, lifting others up to make them feel more comfortable – in short, changing lives.
Some pointed out specific ways they hoped to influence younger students with HEAR. One wanted her younger counterparts to learn, “There are people who are going to be different, people that are going to have opposing views, people who don’t like the same people you do or talk the same way but there is no reason to make them feel worthless or left out. That won’t change things. It may just make things worse.” Another explained that it’s important that middle school students realize that being mean doesn’t make you popular in high school. If you want to be liked, be kind. Similarly, one stated, “…the actions they [middle school students] have now towards others students shape their character. Most kids don’t want to be known as a mean person or as a bully, so I feel if they are aware that their actions do matter and make an impact, they will think twice before acting disrespectfully.”
The young instructors’ words indicate a value on personal responsibility, which made them ideal messengers of the “Be the one” theme found in HEAR. For example, they used HEAR to encourage middle school students to be the one to include those who are regularly excluded; be the one who starts a welcoming club for new students; be the one who organizes a community service activity; and be the one who chooses not to forward or share disrespectful messages online.
While HEAR is successfully presented by adult community members and professional educators across the nation, we want to thank the middle and high school principals (such as Wendy Durand at Woodstock Middle School) and counselors (such as Amanda Rice at The Woodstock Academy) who have proactively invited us in and worked closely with us to make this particular experience a successful one for all. We commend the high school students at The Woodstock Academy, as well as other high school students who have trained and taught HEAR for Middle Schools. Check out our blog posts about other exceptional teen volunteers in Metter, GA and Orange County, CA. One of the messages in HEAR is to “lead the way in making respectful behavior the ONLY cool way to act in your school.” Who better to inspire middle schoolers to live out this message than capable and relatable role models? We appreciate all that these young people bring to the experience, as their service with HEAR truly makes a difference.