Grand Haven High School has spent the past 12 weeks reading the novel "Whale Talk" by Chris Crutcher, and having weekly lessons and discussions. Our students have walked through the events that unfold in this novel and are challenged to answer questions about how they could have handled the situation differently. Through these conversations, we have discussed and defined empathy, sympathy, victim, oppressor and bystander.
The heartfelt conversations and personal experiences that our students have faced began to unfold each week.
Most students know what is right and wrong, but in the heat of a situation, many say they do not know how to respond for fear of being retaliated against. It is our job as adults to teach our kids how to respond when they are a bystander, as they will be faced with this situation at some point in life.
Too often we focus on teaching our kids how not to be the bully or the victim, but we do not spend enough time on teaching them how to be an “upstander.”
Research shows that one out of every 10 kids are bullies. But nine out of 10 are bystanders, those who do nothing about the bully behavior. Our goal is to turn that 90 percent into a population that does something to make a difference.
Our community is making great efforts to educate everyone around bullying and acceptance. Spring Lake High School is taking Rachel’s Challenge, which encourages students to change the culture at their school by eliminating bully behavior. The Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance is offering community forums and institutes around racial equity. EMBRACE, a grass-roots community organization, has opened their arms to supporting those within our community who have been victims of an event. The Diversity Initiative of Northwest Ottawa County is a group of local businesses, municipalities, school districts, faith-based organizations, etc., focused on ensuring our community is welcoming to all.
We are so fortunate to live in a community that is tackling this effort on all fronts!
In addition, with the support of the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation's Youth Advisory Council, Grand Haven High School welcomed Dr. Michael Fowlin to our community. Fowlin presented to middle and high school students, as well as community members, and shared the opportunity to appreciate the beauty within one's self and the beauty within others; to celebrate our differences, and accept our shared experiences.
It is important that parents talk to their children about how they treat others, and the impact that words or actions have on another human being.
As the famous quote states: “Every person you meet is facing a battle that you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.”
— By Tracy Wilson, principal of Grand Haven High School