The students accomplished this feat by splitting into groups and speaking to classes during each scheduled period, focusing on seventh-12th graders during the morning periods and kindergarten-sixth grades during the afternoon periods.
Senior Frances Hudson organized the day’s program at the request of FHS Guidance Counselor Rachel Sherbert.
“It did take a lot of hours to do it and it was really chaotic, but I think it was worth it,” Hudson said. “I feel like the anti-bullying day is very important and it can really impact a lot of people — maybe change people’s minds about bullying and their ways. I think through other people’s examples of how badly it has hurt them, maybe they’ll come to realize how they really do affect people.”
Four of the students volunteering, seniors Michael Polland and Alexis Henderson, and juniors Alana Campbell and Megan Talton, led the lesson during FHS Band Teacher Melissa Padgett’s second-period class of more than 20 seventh-grade students.
Talton explained why she chose to volunteer for the day-long event.
“I know how I felt whenever I was being bullied,” Talton said. “I know that I would go home crying. I would go home and talk to my mom about how I felt, and it just hurt me really deep. I can still remember some of the things that people told me and that was in seventh grade.”
Each member of the team explained one of the four types of bullying to the students, asking the students for examples of verbal, physical, covert and cyber bullying.
Once the students had provided examples, the team provided each student a blank piece of paper they used for a series of exercises led by the quartet.
The first exercise involved the students tracing their handprint onto one side of the paper and writing the name of a person they could talk to if they were being bullied.
After several students read their list of people aloud, the students were given a phrase associate exercise where they were given five statements — example of being brave, a happy time, when you’ve been there for a friend, a good decision you’ve made and list two things you’re good at.
While the students worked on their answers, Hudson spoke to them about a time in her life when she had been bullied.
“When I was in 10th grade, people used to bully me a lot because they said I had a lazy eye,” Hudson said to the group. “It happened every day. Finally, I just got so tired of it. Like every day at lunch and when I’d go home and get on Facebook, there’d be something about ‘Oh, Frances has a lazy eye.’
“So what I did was I just acted like it didn’t bother me,” Hudson continued. “One day I took a picture of myself like squinting my eyes and I was like ‘Lazy eye all the way,’ and I posted it. When everyone saw that picture and saw that it didn’t bother me, they realized, ‘Well maybe she doesn’t get so offended, maybe we aren’t doing what we want.’ So after a while, they just all stopped bullying me because I showed them that I really didn’t care.”
Several students voluntarily provided responses for the second exercise before moving on to the third exercise, writing down the names they didn’t want to be called.
Once the students completed the exercise, the group instructed them to crumple the paper, toss it on the ground, stomp on it and attempt to unfold the crumpled paper so they could try and smooth it out.
As the students complied with the request, Talton and company explained the various knicks, tears and wrinkles in the paper represented the scars all four forms of bullying can cause a person.
The group then started a chain of compliments by asking a student to say something nice about the classmate beside him. The exercise continued until every student had said something nice to a classmate.
“By saying something nice to someone, you could really make their day,” Talton said.
Campbell piggybacked off Talton’s statement to the students.
“Be kind to one another,” Campbell said. “With school, it’s like you’re all together for 13 years starting at kindergarten. It’s like we’re a family and we should be there for each other. If y’all are ever struggling with anything, I just want y’all to know to feel free to come to any of us. We have all been bullied ourselves. If y’all need someone to talk to and you don’t have anyone else, y’all just come to us.”
Each student was given a “Stop a Bully Anti-Bullying Contract” to sign, but Talton insisted they only sign it if they were making a serious commitment to end bullying.
The contract stipulated that students promise to stop a hurtful rumor either online or offline whenever they can, tell an adult when they know of a plan to single out, harass or start a fight in school and not be a bullying bystander by taking action and telling someone if they know of an instance of bullying.
Other terms of the contract included promising to respect all other students, respect other students’ belongings and always treat others the way they want to be treated.
While the students surveyed and signed their contract, Henderson shared instances where she had been a bystander to bullying, had been bullied and had bullied someone — expressing regret for each action.
“Before you call somebody a name, think about the fact why do they do what they do?” Henderson said. “Where do they come from? You don’t know what goes on with them. Get to know somebody before you make fun of them. When you get to know somebody, you realize that you have way more in common than you might think.”
Henderson’s candid conversation with the students prompted several students to provide examples of their own of instance where they had done the same.
“There was a time last year where I turned on my best friend very badly,” seventh-grader Bayley Camp said. “I still regret that every single day.”
Following the presentation, Talton asked the students for feedback on what they had learned from the program.
Seventh-grade Colan Usrey provided what Talton called a very good example of a lesson learned.
“I learned that everyone can fit in if you give them a chance,” Usrey said.
Contact Shane Dunaway at firstname.lastname@example.org