A change in perspective

Annie Matheis, News Editor

They encourage their fellow students. They support every person. They help in any way they can.

Students in the Interpersonal Skills class participate in weekly activities to apply the skills they learn in the classroom.

The goal of the Interpersonal Skills class is to help students learn better social skills by interacting with other students who have strong social skills. Students develop these skills through activities like role playing, volunteer work, field trips and class presentations.

“Everyone does the same assignments together,” Interpersonal Skills teacher Susan Fisher said. “They learn from each other.”

Senior Molly DeBusk said the students work together to build relationships and friendships. The class really affected her outlook on people and relationships.

“It has changed the way I view and make quick assumptions of people,” DeBusk said. “I have been working on getting to know people better now, instead of just deciding what they are like off of the first conversation. I will give them a chance and actually get to know who they are and where they came from.”

DeBusk said her favorite part of the class is how she meets diverse people.

“You actually get to learn so much about so many different people, like where they come from and what they are like,” she said. “You really get to know them.”

Recently, the class went on a field trip to the pumpkin patch in Louisburg to practice the skills they learned.

“It gave me time to know [everyone],” senior Justin Pemberton said. “You get to move around and be active and social. It is really cool.”

He said he thinks the class has changed his perspective on people.

“It has taught me how to look at things,” Pemberton said. “What a stranger, an acquaintance, a best friend, a school pal, what all that is.”

Interpersonal Skills teacher Laurie Rue created this class with another teacher at Shawnee Mission South in 1995.

She said the students needed a class where they could learn from each other, instead of just from a teacher.

“I believe, for anyone, the social piece is so important before they get out of high school,” Rue said. “I think it can be, in some respects, more important than other classes they take because it is something they are going to have to do the rest of their life.”

Pemberton said he is glad he took Interpersonal Skills throughout high school.

“[This class] has gotten me ready so when I get in certain situations, I will know how to react and what to do,” Pemberton said. “I am happy I took the class because I think it is a wonderful opportunity to learn about friendship and how to really get to know somebody. This is one class I will never forget because of all the people, friends and fun activities.”

Interpersonal Skills students complete a Stepping Out project every quarter. They go into the community and participate in fun activities with others. Then they return and present a poster about their experience.

Rue said all the students approach this project in a different manner. Some students will go over to a friend’s house, while other will go out to a restaurant.

For his most recent Stepping Out project, Pemberton ate at Jalapeno’s Mexican Restaurant with some other classmates, and then went to Sweet Caroline’s for dessert.

“I like being around everybody, socializing,” he said. “The food is also really good.”

Students are chosen for the class through teacher recommendations and then an interview with Fisher and Rue.

“The bottom line is there aren’t written rules for social interactions,” Fisher said. “There are just unwritten rules. Some people get them and other people need to be taught them. That is why we teach the class.”