Pleasanton Weekly

News - November 19, 2010

Harvest Park students on friendships, traditions, respect

'This I Believe' essays discuss middle school experiences

by Glenn Wohltmann

There's a reason they're called "tweeners." They're stuck in the middle, too old for elementary school and not old enough for high school, wanting to fit in while trying to establish their own identity.

It's a tough time, and language arts students in Mark Macur's sixth-grade at Harvest Park Middle School recently documented their experiences in a project called "This I Believe."

Chloe Reddy, for example, wrote about her first day as the new kid in school.

"I was alone as I walked to my seat, my face red, my heart beating. 'What will they think of me?' Thoughts raced through my head as I walked to a table. 'Will they like me?' 'Will the teacher be mean?'" she wrote.

Reddy was befriended by some of her new classmates.

"They showed me around the school, introduced me to others and included me in activities," Reddy wrote. "That day exceeded my expectations. I felt liked and included."

Friendships, and especially friendships that have value, were the topic of Amanda Buck's essay.

" having a friend that pretends that she is a friend but then goes and either gossips or goes off and is mean to other people, isn't a very good friend," Buck wrote. "If people chose the right friends and actually got to know them before they start sharing secrets and private things, life would be much better."

Anish Sangari wrote about trying to fit in while maintaining his family's Indian traditions.

"For example, instead of saying hi or hello to an elderly person, you have to be kind and touch his or her feet to get blessings and good fortune from them. This signifies that you are a respectful and well-mannered person," Sangari wrote. "At first I didn't like doing it because I was the only one doing it. I thought that my friends would laugh at me or say bad stuff about me."

Although he was embarrassed dong it in front of his peers, none of his friends commented on it, and his parents told him later that the adults had complimented him for being respectful.

"I hope to pass this experience down to the future generation to tell them that their traditions are very important. Everyone should always remember that what makes you unique from the next person is what you believe in," Sangari wrote.

While fitting in is important to Jake Perlman, it's not as important as standing up for a friend who was being bullied by an older kid.

"I'm not the kind of person who is a wimp and lets people disrespect my friends. After he did that I stuck up for my friend by saying an insult back even though the bully who made that racist comment was a big seventh-grader," Perlman wrote in his essay. "I challenge you to intervene next time you see someone being bullied for a difference he/she may have."

Genevieve Stiers saw the writing on the wall -- the bathroom wall -- and got angry.

"I thought about why someone would want to do that, and what goes through their head to make them do it. Do they really think, or do they just act?" Stiers wrote. "Think about being in a third world country, and not even having a school. They sit in dirt; they have no books, no supplies, no lunch to eat, and no tables to eat it at. In some countries, girls can't even go to school. Those kids appreciate everything they have."

She goes on to suggest some positive actions her peers could take.

"The next time someone is about to sabotage something, they should remember how lucky they are, and reconsider by doing something to help their community," Stiers concluded.

Macur said he was looking for ideas and came across National Public Radio's website for "This I Believe." He said the students took the idea and ran with it.

"What I was most proud of with these kids, given the opportunity to write about what they feel -- they come up with great stuff. This is kind of a gateway to express some of these thoughts they had," Macur said.

Comments

Posted by Toni, teacher and parent, a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Nov 21, 2010 at 2:45 pm

Congratulations to you and your students Mark! My daughter still remembers your class and how inspiring it was to be in there with you as her 6th grade block teacher! Way to go! Keep inspiring those future writers! Proud to call you a colleague.


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