A teacher in Tamworth, Staffordshire, England (formerly of European Union fame) changed the way her students thought about bullying with help from some apples. Rosie Dutton teaches children about relaxation and mindfulness in schools throughout the UK. She also puts the traumatic effects of bullying into terms they'll understand.
Dutton opened the discussion by describing both apples as juicy and delicious, until she dropped one on the floor. Then the kids got mean:
I picked up the apple I'd dropped on the floor and started to tell the children how I disliked this apple, that I thought it was disgusting, it was a horrible colour and the stem was just too short. I told them that because I didn't like it, I didn't want them to like it either, so they should call it names too.
Some children looked at me like I was insane, but we passed the apple around the circle calling it names, 'you're a smelly apple', 'I don't even know why you exist', 'you've probably got worms inside you' etc.
We really pulled this poor apple apart. I actually started to feel sorry for the little guy.
Like with humans, the kids were then kinder to the prettier, undamaged one:
We then passed another apple around and started to say kind words to it, 'You're a lovely apple', 'Your skin is beautiful', 'What a beautiful colour you are' etc.
I then held up both apples, and again, we talked about the similarities and differences, there was no change, both apples still looked the same.
And here's the kicker:
I then cut the apples open. The apple we'd been kind to was clear, fresh and juicy inside.
The apple we'd said unkind words to was bruised and all mushy inside.
According to Dutton, the kids instantly understood the metaphor:
I think there was a lightbulb moment for the children immediately. They really got it, what we saw inside that apple, the bruises, the mush and the broken bits is what is happening inside every one of us when someone mistreats us with their words or actions.
When people are bullied, especially children, they feel horrible inside and sometimes don't show or tell others how they are feeling. If we hadn't have cut that apple open, we would never have known how much pain we had caused it.
The workshop ends with a call to action, pointing out that humans have the power to change how the apples/humans feel on the inside. "Unlike an apple, we have the ability to stop this from happening. We can teach children that it's not ok to say unkind things to each other and discuss how it makes others feel," she writes, "We can teach our children to stand up for each other and to stop any form of bullying, just as one little girl did today when she refused to say unkind words to the apple."
So be kind, kids, and aware of how your actions and words can affect people in ways you can't see.