For the past 12 weeks, Carol Gramentine’s third grade class at Trinity Valley School in Fort Worth, Texas, trained to become Dignity Agents. At the invitation of the Headmaster, Dr. Gary Krahn, I gave a series of talks last fall at the school–for teachers, administrators, students and parents. Dr. Krahn was committed to establishing a culture of dignity at Trinity Valley, and Carol Gramentine was the first to take up the challenge of teaching her third grade students the basic building blocks of dignity.
This was not just an intellectual exercise. She wanted her students to know dignity from their perspective. The whole class set out to come up with a “kids friendly” version of what it meant to treat oneself and others as if they mattered.
To say that the kids were engaged with this project is an understatement. They took the ten elements of dignity (acceptance of identity, recognition,
acknowledgment, safety, inclusion, fairness, independence, understanding, benefit of the doubt, and accountability) and put them into their own words. For example, their version of “Acceptance of Identity”” was: “Everyone Matters.” I told them that I liked theirs better than mine.
Among other things, they made a commitment to share the dignity ideas with others. They even presented their work to other grades at the school. They kept a personal dignity journal, decorated with beautiful drawings of what the dignity elements meant to them. During a Skype conversation, they shared all of their hard work with me. They asked me questions and we exchanged ideas.
One student asked me to tell them about the most important dignity project I had done. I am sure they expected me to say my work in Libya, Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka, or any of my other international projects. Instead, I said that working with them was my favorite of all. They started jumping up and down, clapping and squealing with delight.
During our last Skype session, Dr. Krahn (the headmaster) gave them their hard-earned dignity badges that I had made for them (photo below). I was sure to thank both Dr. Krahn and Mrs. Gramentine for their guidance and leadership and their willingness to bring the dignity work to Trinity Valley School. They are both stellar examples of what it means to lead with dignity.
I told the students that they were the youngest Dignity Agents in the world. What was so exciting for me about that was that they made a pledge to try to always treat others with dignity. Having learned about dignity śo early in their lives, they could have a great impact on the world. I told them that they were the future and that equipped with these dignity skills, they could become true dignity leaders.
In fact, they already are. Never underestimate the impact of 19 young Dignity Agents as they grow and mature into caring and responsible adults. Watch out Washington, DC! They’ll be heading your way.