In Their Own Words: Southern Door Students Address Civility

by Susan McAninch

On Thursday, Sept. 21, in Madison, the Door County Civility Project, along with two other organizations and two individuals, was recognized by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) as a 2017 Friend of Education. These groups and individuals were awarded this honor for their outstanding contributions to support children and young people in Wisconsin.

Since its inception in 2013, the Door County Civility Project has promoted the principles of civility through hundreds of presentations and training seminars in all settings, from neighborhood associations to government bodies. It goes without saying that the recognition by DPI is exciting and gratifying. But the real winners are the students of Southern Door County School District!

Civility project volunteers worked with Southern Door staff to develop activities that advance a culture of civility within the school, and more broadly, help prepare students for civil engagement in their adult lives. Among the civility-focused class projects and events, this collaborative effort resulted in the publication of Refraction, a poetry anthology, edited by students Julia Englebert and Melissa Benzshawel. This collection of more than 140 original poems is focused on the theme of civility and related topics of identity, coming of age, emotion and a final section on the myriad other things students love.

Additionally, for its 2016 high school yearbook, the yearbook staff chose to highlight civility and the nine “Speak Your Peace” tools for practicing civility (listen, pay attention, don’t gossip, be inclusive, show respect, be agreeable, apologize, give constructive criticism, accept responsibility). Students chose motivational quotes to include with their senior pictures. Some of the poems from Refraction are included in the 2016 yearbook.

By all accounts, it appears the focus on civility has had quite an impact on Southern Door and its students. Students have been challenged to consider the tools of civility and to use their own words to express their thoughts. In so doing, they have discovered just what they stand for, as a school and as individuals.

With permission, in their own words:


Be Inclusive

excerpt from “New Kid” by Elizabeth Buhr and Janel Musil


“. . .Never liked,

Always left out,

Always last one picked,

Just wanna get away.


Strange? ‘Love that shirt.’

New? ‘What’s your name?’

Associate? ‘Wanna sit here?’

Maybe this is okay,

Maybe for once

Able to fit in.”


Pay Attention

excerpt from “Pay Attention” by Michaela Kraft


“. . .I watch my grandmother sit up straighter in her wicker chair.

She always gets like this when she talks about the past. . .


. . .I let myself go with her. . .”


Show Respect

excerpt from “Respect” by Nathan Coulthurst and Zach Kiedrowski


“Respect, it’s simple,

Don’t make fun of other people’s pimples. . .”


Give Constructive Criticism

excerpt from “Give Constructive Criticism” by Emily Bretl and Payton Keddell


“. . .The purpose of this necessary evil is to improve the outcome

(no matter how impossible),

To motivate and create the best work

(Despite a lack of effort).

Constructive criticism is essential, so


Give it.”


Susan McAninch is a retired clinical social worker and psychotherapist.

Article Comments