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Havre Middle School students look through 'Purple Glasses'

Program part of district's trauma-sensitive initiative


September 20, 2018

Havre Daily News/Gen Yamaguchi

Daniel Sanchez, right, 12, of Havre Middle School watches the Havre Trauma-Sensitive Schools Initiative presentation of the video "Purple Glasses" during advisory class Wednesday. Danielle Parsons, the science teacher for sixth- and seventh-graders, discussed the contents of the presentation afterward with her students.

Havre Middle School students Wednesday worked on an exercise to teach them the importance of understanding what other people have gone through.

During the school's advisory periods Wednesday, the teachers showed their students the video "Purple Glasses" and talked about the importance of empathy.

Vice Principal Jeremiah Nitz said the program is part of the Havre Public Schools Trauma-Sensitive Schools Initiative.

During August, teachers at Havre Middle School took professional development classes put on by Havre Public Schools staff members, instructors from Montana State University-Northern and speakers from across the nation. The classes worked with the teachers on a variety of subjects for the upcoming year, Nitz said.

One of the classes was a resilience training, taught by Curtis Smeby, professor in the graduate program at Northern, Nitz said, where Havre Middle School teachers Danielle Parsons, Trevor Van Campen and Glenda Stickel watched the video "Purple Glasses," which was shown to the middle school students Wednesday.

It is a 10-minute-45-second video, created by students at Teeland Middle School in Wasilla, Alaska, in which students are shown several scenarios where students judge other students without knowing why they are behaving the way they are. The scenarios include homelessness, dyslexia, loneliness and teachers' behavior.

The three Havre teachers suggested the video should be shown at the middle school.

Parsons, who teaches fifth- and sixth-grade science at Havre Middle School, said it is important that everyone understands the message, teachers included, because everyone can be guilty of lacking sympathy at times.

People are often guilty of making quick judgments toward each other for what can be see on the surface without understanding what the other person is going through, Parsons told her middle school class Wednesday.

She added, no one will ever regret being kind.

As the students prepared to watch the video, Parsons handed out sunglasses to her class, instructing them to put them on their head "until your heart tells your eyes you need them."

The glasses were custom ordered, Nitz said, and have "Blue Pony" and the logo for the school printed on the earpiece of each pair. Nitz said the sunglasses were ordered through Master Sports and he wanted to thank them for their help.

Parsons told her class it is a powerful thing to be considerate to others and see someone else's perspective, adding that it will serve them well throughout their lives.

Looking at the children in the school, she said in an interview, is interesting because it is being able to see the future of the community.

After watching the video she asked her class what they thought. The class responded positively to the video, embracing the concept.  

Justin Whittaker, 12, said what he learned from the video was not to judge people at first look, although he said he understands that everyone does it sometimes. He said the video is educational for students and saw that an important theme was, "Don't bully people."

Twelve-year-old Tash Longknife said seeing the homeless girl in the video stuck out to her because the other students didn't know when their classmate needed help.

"I thought, if you try to see in a different perspective then you can understand what they are going through," she said, adding that she liked the sunglasses.

The video was very detailed, Josh Swart, 13, said, and he liked it a lot. He likes those kind of videos, he said, because they are informative. He added that the scene where a child with dyslexia struggles with reading in front of his class spoke to him.

Carolyne Thomas, 12, said the dyslexia video also spoke to her, because she has a relative who struggles with the learning disorder. She added that she thought it was important to show the video at the school.

Antone Rider, 12, said the video has a great message, adding that he thought it was good that teachers and students were watching the video.

One of the parts of the video that Daniel Sanchez, 12, said he thought was important was when a teacher got upset at a student for not doing her homework, but what the teacher didn't know was the girl had been babysitting until 2 a.m. so was struggling in class.

Parsons said after the presentation that sometimes people can get so wrapped up in their own way of thinking that they don't take a second to see the other possibilities. She added that if her students learn to be considerate, thoughtful and helpful now they ail take those skills into the community as adults.

"There is more being taught at schools than academics," Parsons said. "School, and our school in particular, is a special place to be. There is a great deal of learning and growth that takes place here that can't be measured by a test or survey. It's measured by actions and observation, which also relates back to the 'Purple Glasses' video clip. Actions speak louder than words."

She said it is important that parents and teachers teach the same message of empathy to the children, adding that many parents are already teaching their children these skills, but it is important that teachers reinforce that at school.

The middle school has great kids, Parsons said, and it is a really good place to be. She added that the whole school district is forward-thinking in many different ways, and the Purple Glasses initiative is only one of the many things they do for their students.

Havre Daily News/Gen Yamaguchi

She said she and the two other teachers sent the video to Nitz, and he immediately called her into his office to ask her what she needed to get this started at the middle school.

Nitz said it is important to get the students to want to get along and understand that they are part of something bigger than themselves, "Blue Pony pride."

He added that the school plans to pursue this effort and follow it up with something later in the year, possibly have the students make their own version of the video or a documentary-style discussion with students talking to students about empathy at school.

"We know to be good people we just need to be reminded sometimes," Parsons said.


"Purple Glasses" can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TeRab5X3Mkg/.


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