Holly Schneider’s energy is infectious.
I hunkered down in a desk Wednesday to watch her teach a pilot class at Amherst Junior High School. “Anti-Virus” is a course offered for the first time this year to every seventh-grader.
Don’t misunderstand – it’s not a science class. The viruses kids are learning to combat are bullying, lying, cheating, drinking, smoking, violence, laziness, gossip, bragging; the list of vices goes on.
Schneider’s conversation with kids this week was about ambition. She wove inspiration with history, invoking the life of Thomas Edison.
America’s foremost inventor was born in Milan, Ohio, about 30 minutes’ drive from the junior high.
Perhaps Edison’s greatest invention was the incandescent light bulb. It took 13 months and failure after failure before a prototype was complete.
He wasn’t dogged by months of experiments-gone-wrong, famously saying, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”
“All of us fail at things. But we get back up on the horse and try again,” Schneider told a class of 18. “Here’s what’s really interesting. He went to school for three months – only three months – because his teachers said his mind was addled.”
Edison proved them wrong. In his life, he was granted 1,093 patents in the United States and 2,332 worldwide. Among them were the phonograph, movie camera, electric power transmission systems, and copying machines.
Schneider’s success with the “Anti-Virus” program was readily apparent. Much of that can be chalked up to her experience communicating with young people.
A now-retired math teacher who spent decades at Nord Middle School, she led her lesson as a conversation, engaging kids and showing their ideas and feelings have merit.
Part of that bond comes from Schneider’s willingness to share her own struggles. She admitted wrestling with ambition to clean her closet, with reining in bad moods, with her father’s death – and students opened up in kind.
The right way to handle those problems is through the seven “anti-virus” behaviors: common sense, hard work, ambition, restraint, generosity, emotion, responsibility.
“Every one of us can set a goal and work hard at it. It’s inside of us… You have to decide where your skill is,” Schneider told students. “Not everybody is cut out to be a teacher. I know that. Not everyone was cut out to be a basketball or hockey star. I know that. Not everybody was cut out to be an engineer. I know that.”
“Anti-Virus” is paid for by the Educational Service Center of Lorain County and offered to Amherst students at no cost. AJHS is one of only two schools countywide to try it out.
Principal Ryan Coleman said it’s already made a difference in his building.
“Kids are buying into it,” he said.
Among his top concerns for seventh- and eighth-graders is bullying. Teasing and “drama” can have devastating effects at the junior high stage when kids are already overly self-conscious, said Coleman.
“Sometimes bullying is happening and kids don’t realize how deep it is. They think it’s just joking around,” he said. “It’s really an unawareness of how hurtful it really is.”
There’s been a noticeable change in bullying problems since the program launched last month, he said.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.
Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times Holly Schneider reaches out to kids at Amherst Junior High with a new program called “Anti-Virus,” which addresses lying, cheating, stealing, bullying, and other problems faced by seventh- and eighth-graders.