Bullying: A Big Complicated Problem with Many Simple Solutions

If each one of us untangled one string at a time...

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

One Can Count

Watch NYOne!

New Elementary School Leadership Program Launches.  

One Can Count!

Last Friday was a good day, thanks to Senator Andrew Lanza and P.S. 5, a beautiful elementary school in Staten Island, New York.

It was a day that we celebrated leadership with Kindergartners and Fifth Graders.  These partners have been involved in the One Can Count campaign since October.  (We planned the launch for October 29th but Sandy had other plans.)  As partners, they're working on lessons of respect and having fun at the same time.

One Can Count is based on Kathryn Otoshi's award-winning children's book, One.  Like many others -- children and adults alike -- I was inspired by this beautiful book that simply and insightfully boils down the issue of bullying to numbers, letters and a meaningful message about stepping up.

I reached out to Ms. Otoshi and together we came up with ways to use One in individual elementary school classrooms or as a school-wide mentoring campaign.  Kids are the experts which is why we made them the teachers.

We hope these help you inspire your little leaders because leadership is the anti-bully.  Go to Tangled Ball.com and download the materials for free.

(A special thanks to Nancy DeMuro for getting the Tangled Ball rolling!)

Kathryn Otoshi and students share the message of One!:

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Leadership Can Be Giving Your Last Bucket of Sand or Singing A Song to Ease the Hurt

A few days after Sandy, I found this sign stapled to a poll on the beach in New Dorp, Staten Island.  It reads,
Thank you to the little girl who gave me her last bucket of sand from the beach to fill my sandbags on Sunday afternoon.  From Melissa, Millbank Rd.  
 Do some kids just have more empathy than others?  I think so...but can most kids learn empathy?  I also think so.

The more I'm in schools and just observe children, in general, I think we might be missing the boat in bullying prevention, especially with younger children.

I just finished The Leader In Me by Stephen Covey.  This is a well known school program created by the author of the extremely popular 7 Habits of Highly Successful People.

In a nutshell, The Leader In Me makes teaching leadership in school, including kindergarten and elementary school, a priority.  The result?  Less bullying issues but a lot of other benefits, too.  Schools who focus on leadership often have better test scores, experience an enjoyable school climate, happier teachers and more well-rounded students.

This makes sense to me which is why 2013 is Tangled Ball's Year of Leadership.  

Kids want to be strong.  Often, that's why they "bully."  If we teach kids to be strong by giving them real leadership skills, I guarantee there will be less mean behavior.  Who doesn't want happier, empowered kids, better test scores and less trips to the principals' office?

Giving kids chances to be leaders is the trick.  Giving adults a reason to compliment their children goes a long way to inspire kids to want to do well, including being good to their peers.

Sounds old-fahioned.  It is.  Let's bring it back anyway.

I'd love to hear your ideas on how to change our schools, ONE little leader at a time.

Speaking of leaders, here's a beautiful example of adults and kids coming together and creating a way to step up to help others feel better.  I dare you not to cry as you listen to Ingrid Michaelson (coincidentally from Staten Island) and the kids of Newtown sing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Storm: Ray and Maryann's Story

Our House, Our Home from Jika González on Vimeo.

I'm so happy Jika Gonzalez, the creator of this piece, came to Staten Island to use her talents to tell the story of the Egers.  Nothing I can say can add to what she's already captured.  I asked her to tell her story and to share her thoughts since she followed the Egers (a four hour round trip every week from Manhattan's Upper west Side) and what it meant to her.

I was on assignment to tell a story about the rebuilding process in the aftermath of Sandy.  The Egers were the first family I met on day six after the hurricane, and I just decided to go with it. I wasn't really sure what the story I was going to tell was about, but there was something about the Egers that I was drawn to. They are incredibly strong and positive and they had an amazing attitude towards their situation.

A lot of the stories that came out after Sandy were about the insurance companies and FEMA, but what I felt was so powerful about the Egers was their history with New Dorp Beach. This story is about the emotional loss, and while there is a huge financial burden on them I wanted the viewer to understand what the family was going through.This story is not about losing the house or material things, but about the process of dealing with losing a home where you build your life in. I am really grateful that the Egers were so open to share the incredibly difficult process.

The Egers are natural leaders in their community, and the way they took on the rebuilding process is exemplary. Something incredible about the Egers and the New Dorp Beach community in general, was how everyone came together and helped each other out.

The media coverage of Sandy has withered as it always does but the victims of Sandy are still dealing with both material and emotional losses, and they will for a very long time. I am currently working on a story about the effects of Sandy on undocumented immigrants, which is a story that I don't think we have hear enough of.

Sometimes telling other people's stories with real grace, dignity and compassion is leadership, too.  Thanks, Jika!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Leadership. One tweet at a time.

Teen uses tweets to compliment his classmates

A simple concept with a powerful result, especially since it's teenage boys who are sticking up for others online.

Courage comes in all ways.  Sometimes it takes guts to be nice.

It's the coward who is involved in shaming. 

Kids need to be taught -- and shown -- the difference.  That's all there is to it.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Most Amazing Teacher. The Most Amazing Leadership.

Since this has gotten over a million views, I'm sure many of you have seen the story of this teacher.  His  ability to teach a lesson in physics seems fabulous but his teaching by example is off the charts.

This is what leadership looks like so please share this with everyone you know.

Leadership is the anti-bully.  The more we can show kids what real strength is all about, we have a shot.

No other words needed.

Monday, January 7, 2013

When a Company Takes Leadership Seriously

As we begin 2013 with hope, it's ok to admit that the end of 2012 left the country, especially the Northeast, shaken.  The destruction of Sandy and the horror of Newtown, left a wake of uncertainty, a feeling of powerlessness, and a craving for leadership.

Sometimes, it's individual heroes that emerge and other times it's the leaders in the boardrooms who make the right decisions and offer the right direction to help us where they can.  

In response to these two separate tragedies, Scholastic stepped up.

Sandy Relief

Thanks to Scholastic, one million new books are being donated and delivered to affected schools who were in Sandy's path.  Although books are desperately needed in these communities, it is boilers, sheetrock, and basic equipment that need to be purchased first.  Dazed and strained, schools still need to do their job every day.  Education has to continue... but how do you encourage children to be lifelong readers and achievers if there aren't enough books?  Who is going to replace them when every dollar is already spoken for?  Enter Scholastic.  Books are on their way to these communities.  Sounds simple but as anyone knows who has worked on any type of relief effort, it's hard work to get to the point where trucks can be loaded up.

Unthinkable Connecticut Tragedy

How will we ever get our arms around what happened in Newtown?  Scholastic reacted quickly.  As a trusted source for teachers, Scholastic provided a steady hand and solid advice to teachers who had to walk back into their own schools to try to explain the inexplicable and to provide comfort to children and peers.  

President and CEO Dick Robinson's letter to teachers about Newtown is worth a read.  It's insightful and strikes me as a message of respect for their dedication and courage. 

Our hearts go out to the 20 families who lost their dear first-grade children. We mourn for the six adults — teachers, principal, and school psychologist — who gave their lives to protect their students at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Our shared grief is not enough, however, to honor their sacrifice. We ask our political leaders to take action against the presence of assault weapons so we can take at least one step toward ensuring a society where children and teachers are free to learn without concern of deadly attacks.  We also must work to mitigate the gun violence that affects some urban children on their way to school every single day. We count on teachers and public servants to shoulder the responsibility for our children’s safety, but we do not give them the support they need. Our society needs to increase the availability of school health resources, and to pass laws that will protect schools and children against gun violence.  
If you're a teacher or know one, you may also appreciate Scholastic's fantastic advice and resources, which I think would be helpful for any tragedy affecting the minds and hearts of school-aged children and everyone who works in schools.

The longer I live, the more I appreciate the value of leadership.  It comes in all forms and this time it came from a company who believes it has a responsibility to their customers because they're not just any customer.  They are the men and women who are leading our children in the classroom.