We've had two assemblies about bullying in the past week.
One made me cry.
The speaker was Kirk Smalley, president of Stand for the Silent. His mission is personal as he is also the father of Ty, an eleven year-old boy who committed suicide after being bullied for more than two years. It was absolutely heart-wrenching to hear a dad explain the details of that fateful day when he learned that his beloved son shot himself because he couldn't take even one more day.
Tears streaked the cheeks of staff and students alike, myself included, as we listened to the message Mr. Smalley. Hearing someone's personal story makes it more meaningful.
And then the coolest thing happened...
Each time Mr. Smalley got choked up during is speech, I looked up to see a gym full of 6th and 7th graders, normally rambunctious and sometimes disrespectful, sitting on the edges of their seat, hanging on to his every word.
And what's more? Each student stretched out a hand toward Mr. Smalley displaying the ASL sign for "I love you" to show him support. He taught them that the sign can also mean, "I've got your back," and it was great to see how they embraced it. It's pretty powerful to look up and see $600+ signs of love pointing in your direction!
At the end of his story came a message of hope. A message that each of us can be part of the change that ends bullying. A message to each student that they are someone important, that they matter, and that suicide is never an option.
He pleaded with our students to go out into the world and spread this message. For themselves, for their kids, and for their grandchildren. He invited them to join the plight of his non-profit, Stand for the Silent, in increasing awareness about bullying and its sobering effects. A group of 8th graders has already come forward with the intent to start our own chapter at our middle school. How awesome!
Although this is completely out of my control as an aide, I would have loved to do a follow-up activity about this in my ELA classroom. I think it would have been really impactful to do a writing assignment where students could talk about a time when they were bullied, a time they were the bully, or a time when they witnessed the bullying and did nothing. I think this would do a couple of important things:
- Demonstrate to the victims of bullying that they're not alone.
- Educate students on what bullying really means, since so many subtle methods are ignored.
- Give students an opportunity to share their writing in small groups or with the class, where they can feel the support (I'm telling you... that "I love you" sign is powerful).
- Teach students how to respond to bullying as victims and witnesses.
- Open the door for further communication about this important topic.