Thursday, February 13, 2003

Third-graders and parents work on character in Cape

Published in the Current

It was almost bedlam in the Pond Cove gym around midday Tuesday. All of the third-graders and about 60 of their parents had gathered to share what they had learned in character-building sessions earlier in the morning.

The parents had met in the town center fire station to participate in a workshop entitled “Parenting: the biggest job we’ll ever have,” led by Laura Gauld, co-director of the Hyde School in Bath, which focuses on character building and involving the whole family and community in raising and teaching children.

“Our kids are not in their comfort zone” for most of the day, Gauld told parents. She encouraged parents to get out of their own comfort zones, to become role models by trying new things. “We will set an example for our kids to follow,” she said.

Gauld also cautioned parents against trying to become friends with their kids. “Do the job you need to do; you will have that relationship” eventually, she said.

Meanwhile, at Pond Cove, high school students from the Hyde School and about 25 Cape Elizabeth High School juniors and seniors had led discussions with third-graders about learning to be themselves.

When they all came together, parents spoke first, stepping forward out of the crowd to tell students what they had learned, including the importance of attitude when approaching a challenge; letting their kids try difficult things without automatically jumping in to take over; and having families agree on principles they all work toward.

One parent said she had learned that “it’s more important to do the right thing, even if it’s the hard thing.”

The students, for their part, spoke about their private feelings and the public face they put forward; what they want to be when they grow up; and what principles they stand for. They participated in skits demonstrating ways to overcome stress and how to treat people better.

Parent Kelly Dell’Aquila, who is a social worker, pushed for the workshop to help kids deal with bullying behaviors in school. Pat Wright and Karen Niehoff, the Pond Cove guidance counselors, and Katie Lisa, the high school social worker, helped plan and coordinate the events.

Funding was provided by the Cape Coalition, the Pond Cove Parents Association, the DARE program and Oakhurst Dairy.

At the end of her session, Gauld quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Our chief want in life is someone who will make us do what we can.”