WYLIE — Students were breaking into groups instead of cracking open the books at Wylie High School Wednesday. And instead of being told to quiet down in class, students were being encouraged to speak up.
It was all a part of a new character education program starting this year throughout the district and through all grade levels.
"The first thing that I thought of was that this was going to be like a cheesy, blow-off class," said sophomore Bawo Asagba.
The first lesson of the year-long series is "R&R," which stands for respect and relationships.
"Respect is hard," said Wylie Schools Superintendent David Vinson. "Respect is something you can find and you can see, but it's hard to define."
Now students and teachers are defining respect for themselves and each other. In a tenth-grade classroom they shared their worst fears -- real and imagined. Some students said they were learning more about their classmates during one exercise than they might the entire school year.
"There's a lot of stuff, as friends, that we don't talk much about -- our experiences," said Albert Beshiri, a sophomore. "But throughout the day I learned what people are afraid of. I've learned about their personalities and stuff like that."
The hope is that once the bell rings, the students will take what they learned in the classroom and put it into practice out here in hallways and beyond in their everyday lives.
Back in March, two Wylie ISD students were charged with the murder of another student. Superintendent Vinson said the curriculum was in the works before that, but that incident highlighted the need for this type of education.
"The school is a reflection of society. It is not society itself," said Vinson. "And so what we are trying to do is build our community to be a better community with parents and with kids."
And what some students thought was something they'd blow off, is sinking in.
"What I learned is that people are really passionate about things," said Asagba. "But what I saw in class is that people are really shy about sharing it. And I feel like after today people are going to be more in touch with themselves."
And hopefully students will be more inclined to respect each other and themselves.