Bullying: A Big Complicated Problem with Many Simple Solutions

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

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Getting Creative and Teaching Leadership at P.S. 55

Students are learning that One Can Count at P.S. 55 on Staten Island.

Fifth graders are the experts as they partner with the Kindergartners to reinforce the message, "Everyone Counts."  After reading Kathryn Otoshi's award-winning book, One, the mentors got together with their younger counterparts to lead them in an activity that demonstrates that everyone is unique, beautiful and valuable.  (One is an ageless children's book which beautifully and simply inspires kids -- and adults, too -- to step up for themselves and for others.)

A One Can Count team of teachers and staff came up with the idea of doing something seasonal that expressed the importance of respecting each other's differences.  As the partners created their own snowflakes together, the students had fun getting to know one another as well as crafting something that they could display with pride.

There are so many positive things about P.S. 55's efforts.

Using a Simple Tool

NYS Senator Andrew Lanza provided 30 copies of One and 30 copies of it's companion book, Zero, to each elementary school in his district on Staten Island.  Inspired by the book and the gift, P.S. 55 set out to ensure that each student received their own personal copy of One.


The message of One is for all ages but when you make the older students the teachers, they take ownership of the concepts of kindness, empowerment, and positive action.  There are countless benefits of mentoring but perhaps placing students in a leadership role is the most powerful.  Leadership is the Anti-Bully.

Staff Involvement

When administration, teachers, guidance counselors, parent coordinators and other staff members get together to promote leadership, it's a message to students that they're important.  In essence, it demonstrates leadership and students learn by example.


Think about it.  Children learn more when they feel emotionally safe and when they're having fun.  The fact that Kindergartners have a friend in the 5th grade is a big deal.  Add to that, the time spent doing a creative activity brings joy to both.


Empathy is easier to teach when students are asked to look out for someone younger.  Compassion helps students become "upstanders," the secret weapon against bullying.  When kids step up for one another in mean situations, the bullying stops in seconds.

Hats off to Principal Sharon Fishman, Guidance Counselor Arlene Donnelly, staff members Juleah Bracker and Julia Lucchese and of course and most importantly, the brilliant students at P.S. 55.  Getting creative and teaching leadership helps create a school climate of cooperation.

In other words, P.S. 55 itself is like a snowflake -- unique and beautiful.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Inspiration at the 7-Eleven: #Leadership

When we tell people to do their jobs, we get workers. When we trust people to get the job done, we get leaders. -- Simon Sinek
I've been lucky enough to hang out in San Diego for the past month.  I have my new granddaughter, Lucy, to thank for keeping me out of the harsh NewYork cold.

My daily routine includes getting up early and going to the 7-Eleven on the corner of Beech and State to get a cup of coffee and it always includes nice conversation with the people working there.  For example, early Christmas morning, I happened to ask the cashier how his Christmas Eve had been and then he gave me the most spiritual description of Midnight Mass at St. Paul's Cathedral.  He was so peaceful telling me about the music and the lighting of candles.

It seemed as if he was totally in the moment and appreciating every aspect of life.  It suddenly dawned on me that if he was at Midnight Mass, he must have only had a couple of hours of sleep.  He happily told me that four hours of sleep was fine and he was able to get off in the afternoon to celebrate the holiday with his family.  Not one complaint.  Not one.

I don't know what it is, but every employee there is exceptionally nice.  They're not just nice to me. A handful of homeless individuals frequent this store -- begging outside on the corner before they go in. They are also treated with kindness.

It's gotten to the point that if I'm feeling a bit blue or sleep deprived, I look forward to going in there for a boost.  And it's not the caffeine because I only drink decaf.

It's a culturally diverse group of employees but they all seem to have one thing in common.  They know how to treat people and seem to be genuinely interested.

As I was fumbling around with the simple but complicated process of pouring that first cup, I asked the 20-something guy who was efficiently restocking creamers, if it was a good day.  "It has to be," he said.  I wasn't 100% sure of what that meant so he explained, "It's my choice to make it a good day and so it has to be a good day."  And by making it his choice, he made me aware that it was up to me, too.

As I was leaving, he said, "Have a good one."  And I replied, "Now I will."

Leaders work everywhere and do every type of job.  Doing a good job takes commitment and a positive attitude.

Good lessons for our children.  (And speaking of children, there's an awesome woman there who has 5 children, two grandchildren, and looks 20 years younger than her actual age and I think it's because she has an optimistic attitude!)

Look for leaders wherever you go.  You can even get inspired at a 7-Eleven.