Bullying: A Big Complicated Problem with Many Simple Solutions

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

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Teaching Our Kids How to MEDABO

Last week I handed out three MEDABO cards in very unlikely places.  Two were on the 15X express bus from Staten Island to Manhattan and the other one was on the #4 subway.

MEDABO is a family charity.  My father used to tell the kids to go out and make every day a better one and so my daughter, Alice-Kate, and her cousins decided to make it official by creating these cards.  It's mission is simple.  Recognize acts of kindness and pay it forward.

Three Cards: Three Unexpected Parenting Lessons

The Sunny Bus Driver

The first card was given to the bus driver on Tuesday.  She was incredibly kind to every single person who boarded the bus.  Not easy to do when you're a driver in New York City.  She connected with each person and sincerely asked how they were.  When one regular customer was getting on she showed true concern for his obviously failing health.  It made my heart melt.  

Teachable Moment

The next time I saw the driver, she told me that she had given it to her  son for doing something good and she asked him to pass it along to someone else who was making a difference.

The Kind Passenger

On the following Friday, I boarded the bus but when I went to pay, I realized that the Metrocard that was in my wallet was expired.  I had left the one with $20 on it on my kitchen counter.  When I asked a woman who looked approachable if I could pay her in exchange for using her Metrocard, I had another jolting thought.  I only had $3 on me.  The fare is $6.  She didn't even blink.  She just stood up and paid my fare.

Teachable Moment

We started talking about Tangled Ball and early bullying prevention.  She has twin 3 year olds but she pointed out something really key to me.  Her son had recently used the "hate" word at pre-school.   He was quickly corrected but it left her wondering how he even knew the word?  (She laughingly said that it could have been a lot of other choice words if he was mimicking her but that she actually never used the word "hate.")

It reminded me that kids are sponges.  They'll pick up words and actions that their peers use.  So even if you don't do some things at home, once they go to school, they're learning more than their colors.  

Early course correction is a good idea.

The Wise Upstander

You run into a lot of crazy stuff on the subway.  On Friday, there were a mother/daughter duo having an argument to beat all arguments.  It got really heated and everyone on the train was uncomfortable. There was a sigh of relief when they got off but one gentleman didn't just leave the crazy vibes in the air.  

Teachable Moment

He said out loud,. "That's a shame.  People just don't say I'm sorry anymore"  He continued, "I'm sorry" works.  As a matter of fact, I said it to my 6 year-old daughter last night.  She was upset that I came home late and I looked her in the eye and said, 'I'm sorry.' And she was satisfied."

His parting words of wisdom:  "People are too defensive.  Saying I'm sorry is really important."

I couldn't agree more.

Who is Making Every Day a Better One in your life?  

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

"Leadership is the Anti-Bully" Month

Thanks to the Pacer Center, October has been declared Bullying Prevention Month.

Since I work mainly with Pre-K through elementary schools, I would respectfully like to rename it "Leadership is the Anti-Bully" Month.  At these ages,  we should remove the labels of "bully," "victim or target" and teach children skills.  Learning how to respect themselves and others will benefit them through middle and high school and the rest of their lives.

There are many great social emotional learning programs that have been introduced into schools over the years, including CASEL, The Leader In Me program, National School Climate Center (NSCC) and Yale's Ruler Program, among many others.

Some schools embrace the idea that teaching leadership and social emotional learning is an important part of the student's education while others don't make it as much of a priority.  But the schools that do embrace it do better academically.  Makes sense.  The safer and happier a child feels, the better they perform.

When Kathryn Otoshi, author of the award-winning book, One, and I created One Can Count, we didn't know what to call it.  We hesitated to call it a program or initiative. Too complicated.  Would people understand if we simply called it a tool?

We wanted to remove any barriers that would make teaching leadership challenging.  The truth is that schools DO have too much to do.  There IS too much on their plate.  Each teacher and staff member can't be asked to be an expert in EVERYTHING.

I enthusiastically support schools who have invested time and money into high-quality school-wide programs that positively impact school climate but not all schools can or have. We wanted to at least provide something simple, inexpensive and that school staff could embrace and make their own.  We wanted to inspire schools to give students a chance to step up in very real ways. Practicing leadership includes simple concepts such as older students mentoring younger children.  It also includes identifying jobs that students can do as part of the regular school day or even the special occasion days. In other words, any opportunity that doesn't compete but enhances classroom time.

We also wanted One Can Count to be inclusive.  We encourage any school to use it in conjunction with any other initiative or program.  Teachers and counselors need tools.

I want to thank the 30 schools on Staten Island who used One Can Count last year thanks to Senator Andrew Lanza, who sponsored the workshop at St. John's University, as well as materials and multiple copies of the One and Zero books for each school.  Principals, teachers, parent coordinators, and counselors got inspired and had fun.  The result?  Kids got inspired and had fun, too.

This is a month of awareness but the benefits of the efforts on the part of schools, organizations and parents will last a lifetime.