By Stevie Walker
Breaking Down the Walls Q&A
When I walked into the gym on the morning of Breaking Down the Walls, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. On many levels, I was excited. On other levels, I was a little nervous. I had no idea how the students there would react, especially with our school’s tumultuous Spring. As the day progressed, however, I came to be extremely surprised on how big of an effect this day had on me and my peers.
It opened my eyes to the diversity of backgrounds and experiences at our school. It gave me a newfound respect for the entire student body of Forest Grove High School. I was blown away at some of the things others have gone through. Breaking Down the Walls was a truly touching experience, and there is no doubt in my mind that it has opened the hearts of many people at this school.
Since it had such a profound effect on me, I wanted to take a chance to see how it has affected other students and staff at our school. I hope that their responses can be evidence to how important this experience was and how important it is for us to keep moving in a positive direction afterward. Here are their responses:
Mrs. Murtaugh –
Ms. Najera –
Zachary Mossbarger –
- In what ways do you think BDTW has impacted our school?
–Mrs. Murtaugh: For the people that were there that it was a very powerful emotional experience. I heard so many people talk about seeing each other freshly, thinking about each other differently, and realizing that everyone has a story. Once you have those realizations, that can change people on a personal level, and I hope that radiates out to the school. I want to make sure that it is not just Breaking Down the Walls. We need to make efforts to keep continuing that work and reminding each other of why that matters because it is easy for us to have a powerful day like that and then have it kind of fizzle out.
–Ms. Najera: I’ve seen kids have more empathy for each other; now they know that every single one of them has gone through something or is going through something. I haven’t seen any of my students making any of the comments that they were making last year. Hopefully Breaking Down the Walls has had something to do with that.
–Zachary Mossbarger: It’s given people a new awareness. Breaking Down the Walls definitely got the conversation started, the conversation that needed to happen.
–Catalina Montelongo: It’s helped us see and realize things about people that we wouldn’t realize by just looking at them. Especially with the activity cross the line, we were able to learn things about people that I would never have realized. I thought that was really cool to get a perspective on people that I didn’t have before.
- What surprised you the most about your experience with BDTW?
–Zachary Mossbarger: What surprised me most was the reaction that people had to it. Most people walked into it not knowing what it would entail or the impact it would have on them. It surprised me how much it impacted the way people perceive things at our school and how much people learned from it.
–Catalina Montelongo: It surprised me how quickly people came together over it. I was one of those people who walked in there thinking “I’m not really sure how effective this is going to be, but I’ll give it a try.” It started out lighthearted, but then it got powerful; people came together, and I was amazed by the ability of people, in just one day, to come together like that. It blew my mind to see that kind of unification, especially at Forest Grove High School, where that’s something we haven’t been particularly strong on in in the past.
- What did you learn from BDTW?
–Zachary Mossbarger: I learned that there is a lot that we choose to look away from, that we choose to ignore. There is a lot going on around us that we are [unaware of].
–Catalina Montelongo: A lot of people have struggles that I never saw or heard about just by looking at them or listening to them, and that helped me realize that I should not be so quick to judge people. It helped me realize that people are going through a lot more than I think. The best thing I could do is to be supportive of them and not quick to judge.
–Ms. Murtaugh: I was really impressed with how open our students were. It was really beautiful to see people comforting each other in the moment, especially people that maybe didn’t even know each other very well. That made me feel really good about how much will the students have to invest in doing something to make the community stronger.
–Ms. Najera: It was painful to see my students going through so many things. As a teacher, you don’t really realize that. I’ve learned to try more to connect with my students and get to know them on a deeper level, not just “hey how are you?”. Any time that they are misbehaving, it is most likely because something is going on.
- How did BDTW impact you?
–Ms. Murtaugh: On a personal level, it was a good reminder of how many different things affect all of us as human beings. It was a good reminder of how my students are people who are dealing with a lot of really difficult things in their lives and still managing to get it together and do what they need to do.
–Zachary Mossbarger: It gave me a sense of awareness. I’ve been seeing people in the halls in a new light. I smile at people that I know are having a hard time. I’ve gone up to people and said hi to them, made sure they’re okay. I had personal conversations with people that I didn’t think I’d ever talk to. It has impacted the way I view people around me.
–Catalina Montelongo: It gave me a new perspective on the people in our school: the people I see on a day to day basis. It made me want to be more appreciative of who I see and who I hang out with.
–Ms. Najera: I need to think about every single one of my students as a unique individual. That one student who is always falling behind or misbehaving, it is most likely because they are going through something that I don’t know about. As a teacher, I now think about that before overreacting. It was a very powerful experience.