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Marianne's Meanderings: Everyday Leadership Class provides new interview experience

Marianne Gillespie
mgillespie@timestoday.com

When IVC Everyday Leadership Class teacher Matt Chapman asked me if I would come to the class and interview some of the students on their anti-bullying project, I didn't realize it would be a first in my career.

I recently celebrated 15 years working for the Chillicothe Times-Bulletin.

I've learned to expect the unexpected during my tenure, and not too many things surprise me.

I headed over to the high school Oct. 1 to interview the students. As I walked into the band room where the class was meeting, Chapman greeted me. He grabbed a stool and told me I could sit by him at the front of the class and interview them.

As I got comfortable on the stool and found an empty page in my notebook, I looked out and saw 18 pairs of eyes looking back at me. That's not an everyday occurrence, to say the least. It was almost like a backwards press conference.

Nevertheless, Chapman told them I was there to interview them about the project and to answer whatever questions I had.

I had to set a ground rule first: to avoid having problems, I asked them that before they answered a question, please tell me their name and how to spell it.

One of my worst nightmares as a journalist is trying to keep track of multiple people speaking — especially if they interrupt each other — because it is hard to attribute who said what properly.

That was not a problem with this class. They raised their hands to answer my questions and waited until I fumbly called on them (as much as you can call on students when you don't know their names). They politely told me their names, how to spell them and then gave thoughtful responses to my questions.

At the end of our time spent, one young lady asked me to check my notes for how I had spelled her name because she wasn't sure I heard the last letter of her name. Sure enough, I hadn't heard that letter, so I fixed it in my notes.

We shared a laugh as well. Kyle Fouts began answering my first question when we began hearing a beeping noise. Chapman confirmed it was a tornado drill and we needed to take a short break. Shortly after the drill was over, we heard the siren testing for the first Tuesday of the month.

Despite the interruptions, I felt like we had more of a conversation of sorts as opposed to an interview.

The more I thought about it, the interview was a good exercise for both me and the students.

For me, new experiences to push myself outside the comfort zone are good. I think of myself as a fairly shy person, especially in a group of strangers, so it was helpful to spend a little time with a group of students.

For the students, I hope this experience got their feet wet in talking to a reporter. I meet plenty of people throughout the course of my job who don't think their opinion or their story is important. That couldn't be further from the truth, especially when we're talking about a community newspaper.

Additionally, the students also gained some press about their project, and possibly parents will talk to their children about bullying. (See Page A1 for the story.)

Chapman said afterward he hoped I could see the students' passion for the topic. I also would add they are dedicated in trying to make a difference in the lives of students younger than them.

I asked the students if either they had been bullied or if they had seen bullying. All 18 of them (one student was absent from the class) raised their hands without hesitation.

Chillicothe Police Chief Scott Mettille may have said it best when I talked to him later that day. There are fewer bullies than there are people standing around watching the bullying, and it only takes one or two to stand up to the bully to stop the situation.

He talked about how, especially by the time students are in junior high, they know right from wrong. It all comes down to what kind of a person they are going to be — will they stand up for someone or will they be part of the silent crowd?

Sometimes I wonder if adults are much better than children when it comes to cyber bullying.

Read comments from people on social media sites or newspaper articles and you may come to the same conclusion as Mettille. Some people use social media as a form of intimidation and feel free to say things they would not if the person stood in front of them. I agree with his opinion: I've seen it with adults, especially when it comes to differing takes on an issue. We each have the right to our own beliefs, but when we disagree, do we have to be disagreeable?

The Everyday Leadership Class is in its fifth year of being offered at the high school. The classes have accomplished a variety of projects in that time and probably most could be summed up in the students helping with something.

Isn't that what we as adults want for our future adults?

We need citizens who are willing to step up and help, possibly even serving as the leader. In that case, the Everyday Leadership Class is preparing them well for the future.