Bullying: A Big Complicated Problem with Many Simple Solutions

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

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Silent Soul Crusher of #Bullying

Sometimes it's not the words that hurt, it's the shrug of the shoulders, it's the no eye contact, it's the looking through a person and not at them.  It's the absence of words.

Message is received.  You're not important.  Your heart shrinks a little more.  Kids know when their peers or even adults are not that interested in them.  It's like the title of the book and movie by the same name, "He's Just Not that Into You."  

This is something that has to be experienced to understand.  And that's really part of the harsh reality.  Often this is a silent soul crusher because the method of hurting another is off the radar.  No one sees it.  It's no big deal to others.  It doesn't matter.  There is no recourse.  It is isolating and there is no road map.

No child should feel alone.  Correction.  No person should feel alone.

Kids don't read this blog so if you're an adult who is made to feel small by being made to feel invisible, please know that your suffering is real.  Although we probably have never met, I am sorry if you are feeling diminished in any way.

You are important and fight for yourself.  Get new friends.  Seek new circles and perhaps look out for a child who may be feeling the same way.  See them. Validate their importance.  

Your interest is proof of how important you are.  Sometimes it just takes one person to remind a child of their value.  You won't know it by their words but you'll see it in their eyes.

My hope is that you are seen and appreciated today.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Chain of Leadership as the Anti-Bully

The 2013-2014 school year was full of light bulb moments.

It started out with this thought:  What if we gave young students the chance to shine as leaders?  What if we spent as much time creating opportunities for them to practice their leadership skills as we did talking to them about bullying?  What if we got a little creative? What if we could inspire the adults and the kids without it being a hassle or taking away from class time?  What if we made it inexpensive?  Simple?  Flexible? And dare I say, what if it was fun?

The answer was One Can Count, based on Kathryn Otoshi's award-winning book, One, and thanks to Senator Lanza, we were able to answer some of those burning questions.

It is the first time that all 30 elementary schools in Senator Lanza's Staten Island district received the tools they needed to start their own One Can Count initiative.  It became a chain of leadership.  From the free workshop in September to the last day in June, schools made One Can Count their own.  Parent coordinators, teachers, principals and counselors embraced the concept that leadership is the anti-bully.

Here's the simple theory:  Kids need attention.  They'll get it any way they can.  So, if you give them the chance to be their best self, they most often rise to the occasion.  The more leaders you have in a classroom, the better the balance.

Although it's a children's book, every age, including grown ups are inspired by the power that each of us has to stand up and be the One that steps in.

One Can Count is designed to be a stand alone initiative or work with existing programs in the school to help children value the concept of respect.  Bullying is a tangled ball and just like any messy and complicated issue, it often requires many small solutions.

With that being said, I was amazed at what schools accomplished this year.  They took this tool and ran with it.  They had mentoring programs, art and writing projects, assemblies, leadership counsels, performances, and much more.  They created daily reminders of what it's like to be a One.

The year started out with questions but it ended with an answer:

Words of a 5th Grade Leader presenting chain of leadership to Senator Lanza:
Just like the chain, we are connected to one another in our commitment to grow into young leaders.  We are a community of learners who recognize that leadership is not just a position, but a process. -- Piumi
Part of that process:

Books and Materials  

Multiple copies of One and the companion book, Zero, were delivered to each of the 30 schools in early September.


With the generous support of St. John's University, schools came together to hear from experts, including author Kathryn Otoshi and to discuss ideas in which schools could easily incorporate the concepts of leadership.

Free Materials

Materials to help get the tangled ball rolling are free and downloadable here.

Creating the Concept of a Team

Schools had the option of ordering special personalized One Can Count t-shirts for students or teachers.
We're just getting started.  Next year our goal is to have every student feel like a leader. -- Parent Coordinator, P.S. 80
Sometimes it just takes One.

Thank you Senator Lanza, St. John's University, Kathryn Otoshi, and especially schools, for delivering hundreds of light bulb moments for me and hopefully Staten Island elementary school students.  Looking forward to 2014-2015.