Personal Narrative Style
Our principal, from elementary school. A true #TBT photo. imagine the stress this young man got with a last name like "McCracken."
October is Anit-Bully Month
We opened our assembly with a class to class contest. The classes all came in and sat in class circles, all around the gym floor. Mr D’s class did a victory lap with the trophy and got home field advantage for the upcoming event. Our librarian, Ms H did a great job of playing a Trivia game that eliminated groups throughout the process. Eliminated teams sat down on the bleachers till there was only one team remaining. Mr R’s class prevailed, stood for a picture and joined in with the rest of the group.
A song, from 1969...
We opened with a talk about, “A Boy Named Sue” by Johnny Cash. He claims in the song that it is the challenging name that made him strong, because his father knew he would not be there to help his son along. “It’s that name that helped to make you strong!” One student knew the song and the author!
Sue or McCracken?
Then we talked about our principal Mr. McCracken being called “Cracker” as a little boy. It wasn’t till he connected with other students did anyone ever say things like that about his name. In kindergarten, lessons are difficult but we talked how the challenges often really do make us stronger. Kids taunting, teasing and saying things like, “Polly want a cracker?” demonstrated their stress.
Whisper, Whisper, Whisper!
Then, we wrote “Ms Mix, you R…” on a blank sheet of paper! (Ms Mix is our building counselor who does an amazing job adding a calming influence to the building. She is one NOBODY EVER says anything bad about! She is also the only one who knew about the demonstration ahead of time.)
“I’m not playing your silly game!”
The "Shut Down!"
Everyone got to see it before it was completed. We completed it with a SCRIBBLE! (See photo) All the male coaches in the front rows got a chance to “read” the description, chuckled appropriately and indicated the remark was accurate, at her expense! The private part was just scribbles (*&^%$#$%^) but all the men played along and smirked when they saw it, even though it really said nothing. I asked a female coach, Ms L, and she gave the perfect response to shut things down. “NO, I’m not playing your silly game!” She had the confidence, moxie and emotional security to just say NO to the bullying.
Note: The little white corner sheet and what we said about Ms Mix!
But the Damage was done
After laughing, teasing and joking about it, we gave the slip of paper with the insult to Ms Mix. She crinkled it up. The paper was ruined! We tried to apologize. We tried to make it all better but the damage had been done. There was nothing we could do to undo the action. Even though we asked for it back and tried to smooth things over, it was TOO LATE.
Let's ALL Commit
A poster from The Bully Project was produced and summarized how I, the principal, was going to commit to doing everything possible to address bullying issues and keep students safe. I signed it and asked Ms Mix to sign it as well. (See photo)
Here, everyone in the building was invited to commit to addressing bullying, asked to display empathy and sign the poster.
Let everyone in on the secret...
Then all the teachers were asked to sign it on their way back to class. Students were dismissed by sections and sent back to class. After the students returned to class, the principal went to every room and revealed to each class the piece of wrinkled up paper and what was written about Ms Mix. We shared a brief summary about Cracker, a boy named Sue, the show stopping response of Ms L, and how we wanted our students to act! The students were let in on the secret. The only person that knew about what was happening was Ms Mix. None of the coaches, male or female had any foreknowledge of the situation but within one hour, everyone knew.
An unplanned and unexpected expression of gratitude followed. A spontaneous act of compassion erupted. Classes full of students demonstrated true empathy and created hand written cards, thanking and appreciating Ms Mix’s contributions to our school for the rest of the day!
Will this stop bullying? Will this make it go away? Will everybody be nice to each other from here on out? Or will this allow us to have a common language to address bullying, empathy and healthy responses? Behavior and belief are often interconnected. We must address both in the school setting.