It’s isn’t often you manage complete silence in a classroom of 32.
But, there they sat. In a stunned, deafening silence.
They were staring at the crumpled pieces of paper in front of them that would never be as they once were. They glanced around the room realising together what we were trying to teach them. Finally, they understood.
It was just an exercise, an activity during this weeks country wide ‘anti-bullying week’. One of those things you find in a late night ‘teachery Pinterest crawl’. It was, ‘The Crumpled Paper Lesson’.
We’d already taught about cyber bullying, indirect bullying and physical bullying. Verbal bulling is much harder to police in a school – and some children are yet to realise that words hurt. Really hurt. So we gave them a crisp, beautiful piece of paper and asked them to look at it – to really look at it and find something they hadn’t noticed before.
‘It’s so white and clean’
‘It shines in the light’
They looked completely unsure when we asked them to, ‘Screw it up’. They hesitated. But they did follow the instructions and made their paper into the smallest of crumpled balls, laughing the whole time. They were being allowed to destroy something in class, with no consequences.
They followed the next instruction and smoothed out the paper. Palms were pressed onto each crease. Hands smoothed and applied pressure in a forgiving manner. Slowly, they realised it would never be as it was before. It wasn’t possible. The paper was a person. Just like when we use names as knives. Words as weapons. The people we hurt are never the same as they were before. They remember. They hurt.
And that was when it came.
The stunned silence.
This week we taught them something.
This week was anti-bullying week.