Spent all morn yesterday at Jericho Middle School with their 6th-8th graders, along with Stanley Cup Champ, Brent Sopel.
This is a school & a district that gets “it.” Upon entering, all the students & staff were wearing bright neon shirts which said: “We don’t stand by, we stand up!” We…We…We. Love it. The collective.
Both the principal & assistant principal were heavily involved: Wearing the shirts…emceeing….asking Brent & I questions….running into the audience with the mics so students could ask questions!
Brent’s an incredible speaker/example for this topic. As a child, he suffered with Dyslexia, but didn’t know it at the time (wasn’t diagnosed till he was 32). So…kids called him everything from dumb to stupid, because he couldn’t read when called on in class.
He took that emptiness & turned it outward: being the biggest one in his class, he turned to bullying – throwing desks, even pushing other students into lockers, saying mean things.
But now, he isn’t sitting on his Stanley Cup ring & riding off in the sunset. He’s using what he learned – how empty he felt inside & how terrible he made others feel, to share a message that will break that ugly cycle.
I wrote this quote card because it was obvious in the engagement with the students, that when a district works with their students to educate them on WHY we see certain behaviors, there’s a greater universal understanding – that we all face challenges & can actually work together – even WITH the bullies.
When we asked about those challenges they face – what mature responses from these kids: pressure to perform for their parents expectations, loss of loved ones, feeling alone & left out on the school yard. These answers were REAL. You saw the wear & tear on the kids’ faces.
But the biggest takeaway for this day: Bullies do their bullying because those challenges make them feel an emptiness inside, & they project that emptiness on others. Therefore “Standing Up” doesn’t mean fighting back. It means talking & asking & inviting in, & sharing vulnerabilities – to engage & potentially even change the dynamic. Powerful stuff.