Whenever we adults feel uncomfortable with what’s going on around us, we can often just up and leave. Make our polite excuses. Pretend we have to be somewhere else. Say we've got an early meeting in the morning. Or, at the very least, take a ten minute break to regroup before re-entering the fray. But if you’re a tween or teen, and it happens to be between 8:20AM-2:55PM, Monday through Friday, September to June, most likely you are “doing school.” You’re in lock-down. If don't like what's going on around you, if peers harass, backstab or shun you, you’ve just got to put up with it up. Sorry, kid.
Someone once said, “Real life is a mere shadow of high school.” I guess there's some truth in that. Especially if you're into power, which, for teens means social status. For middle and high school students who want to excel in the Popularity Game (as so many have convinced themselves they must) they've got to learn to swim in their school's social garbage and become adept at spreading it around with great precision and force, online and off.
But not all kids enjoy the sport of tearing down their peers. Obviously targeted kids absolutely hate the whole scene. And there are plenty of others, not targeted, who just don’t like being around it. Either way, where can a child who wants to opt out of her school's social garbage get some peace during lunch?
I've been thinking about this in the context of improving school climate and what we can do to reduce social aggression amongst students. I believe I may have come up with a super-simple solution.
I propose an O.A.S.I.S (Open-to-All Sanctuary in School)– Simply, it is one room open to students at lunch and staffed by a calm, compassionate teacher who wants to be there. The rules are easy: We encourage quiet contemplation and peace of mind here. Please no talking. No texting. No social garbage. The O.A.S.I.S. might include soothing background music. With or without music, this is a place where everyone is welcome to just be. If you'd rather gossip and be snarky, eat in the cafeteria. If you want to opt-out, have a seat. Like I said, simple, right?
Any school in the world could do this starting tomorrow. All you'd need is a room that is not in use during lunch. (Schools have plenty of them, right?) The oasis needs no extra funding. No curriculum. No tests. No thing. Just a quiet place and the calming welcoming presence of a teacher who understands that we all need an OASIS.