ARTICLE

Help Students Connect with Heroes, Not Bullies

Today, thousands of people will stand against bullying and wear a blue T-shirt in a worldwide event to raise awareness about bullying. It is known as Blue Shirt Day or World Day of Bullying Prevention.

Today, thousands of people will stand against bullying and wear a blue T-shirt in a worldwide event to raise awareness about bullying. It is known as Blue Shirt Day or World Day of Bullying Prevention.

Stomp Out Bullying had made shirts available for purchase, but I thought it would be great for students to create their own group shirts. As a way to deepen class unity, each student can bring in a blue shirt and then dip his hand in paint and place a handprint on everyone’s shirt. This will create a sea of blue shirts that are similar, yet unique. You can have a few extras from a thrift store for students who don’t have a shirt.

Wearing the T-shirts on Blue Shirt Day can be part of a larger initiative to create an environment of respect and acceptance rather than focus on anti-bullying. Students can work in groups to explicitly state what a respectful community might look like. This might start with brainstorming a list of things that would make people feel hurt or uncomfortable and changing these actions to positive ones to include in your charter.

For example, if a student says being called names is hurtful, you might write:

Name calling = Using given names; finding out if there is a nickname a student prefers.

I like the idea of highlighting respect throughout the year to counter bullying. Matt Langdon, consultant and activist, objects to the idea of anti-bullying and instead recommends focusing on the positives and developing the hero in each student to stop violence and create respect. This shifts focus from the negative, unwanted behavior to positive reinforcement. We all love tapping into our inner hero.

Bullying hurts everyone. Victims feel isolated and often depressed. Bystanders feel powerless and bullies carry a label and stigma that is long lasting.

Langdon says that students are seeking a power differential and getting to the “cool” ladder, or what he calls a hierarchy system. He insists it’s this quest that fuels bullying. In the new hierarchy, tapping into their inner heroes, each student feels comfortable socializing with others and takes care of each other, because that is the behavior of a hero. In his TED Talk, Langdon highlights the how students define bullying in so many ways, that simply asking them not to bully is not effective. Instead, he likes the idea of creating school heroes and focusing on the positive attributes. Doing these things helps everyone feel welcome.

Blue Shirt Day creates the energy for students to help create a respectful environment. It’s important that students be involved in the solution. They are building their own community of respect. They are making connections, becoming part of something bigger and establishing lifelong habits of respect that we hope will ripple into the world.

Schmidt is a writer and editor based in Missouri.