Remember the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me?” A guest speaker at some Pendleton schools on December 13th used that concept for his message to students. Brooks Gibbs is a resilience educator with a Ph.D. in Social Psychology. At an assembly at Sunridge Middle School, he spoke to all the students in the school about taking personal responsibility for how they feel and how to protect their emotions from the effects of mean or aggressive behaviors through emotional resilience.
In an example with a student volunteer, Gibbs had the student pretend to be mean to him. In the first scenario, Gibbs got very angry and upset about the comments. In the second scenario, instead, he was calm and kind and treated the person like a friend. “The more upset you get, the more you are giving them power and playing their game in losing mode,” Gibbs explained.
He went on to say that when people are using mean and negative words toward you, you can choose not to get upset and that nobody can hurt your feelings without you giving them permission. He teaches students two basic principles when dealing with aggression:
- Don’t get upset (Emotional Resilience)
- Treat them like a friend (The Golden Rule)
Seventh grader Kale said he learned that getting more frustrated will end up making the person have more fun, and staying calm can help in an aggressive situation. Kenzie, another seventh grader, said her takeaway from the assembly was to always be nice and kind to other people.
Gibbs said physical violence does require adult intervention and encourages students to seek help if they feel they are in danger or cannot handle the aggression on their own.
Piper Kelm, Principal at Sunridge Middle School, said increasing emotional resilience in middle school students is a perfect fit because, since the COVID pandemic, a lagging skill in many young people is the ability to self-regulate and adjust to adversity in their lives. “Any tools and strategies we can help provide to our students benefit them and our school climate,” Kelm said.
In addition to visiting SMS, Gibbs presented at Washington Elementary, Pendleton High School, and Nixyaawii Community School. The presentations were funded through Title XI funds in the Pendleton School District.
Gibbs is a popular youth speaker who has been hired by more than 3,000 schools to present his message to students, parents, and educators. For more information about him and his program, visit www.brooksgibbs.com.