Do we paddle, or do we let the current take us where it will?

This post is a follow-up to the previous one about learning to talk TO each other instead of AT each other.  I will begin with this warning: If you read this post, you will learn at least some of my political opinions. I will continue with this declaration: I have absolutely no intention of changing anyone’s political opinion! In the first place, that would be a lost cause. We build our opinions on what we see as important, and we tend to hold on to them fiercely. More importantly, to try to do so would be a mistake. If I could make everyone in the world think as I do, the world would be in at least as much a mess as it is now. I am a relatively intelligent person, but I, too, have emotional ties to my opinions that are not always rational. And because other people have had different experiences, their views and knowledge of the world have shown them things I have no concept of.

Given the above, I strongly believe it is a very good thing we do not all agree. I also believe that it is NOT a good thing that we do not always respect the opinions of others or defend their right to have them. So, rest assured that I am not dismissing any of the things I disagree with as unimportant and that I welcome any comments expressing your own opinions however much they differ from mine.

Okay. Here it is. And I hope that my true friends will stick by me even when they learn the truth. I have only voted for two presidents who were actually elected, so I am usually on the losing side of that election. But whoever is elected is still my president.  I am a pretty progressive person.  Actually, I probably fit in well with those who were referred to “back in the day” as “pinko-commie liberals.”  No…I was never a Communist. Or a Socialist. I do believe it is very important that we, as a nation, contribute through our taxes to social programs that benefit the whole country and programs that benefit people who need extra help…like Public Schools, Medicaid, A strong national defense, Public roads and bridges, a postal service. These are things we probably would not have if they were not funded at least in part by the Federal Government. Feel free to offer suggestions for additions or subtractions to this list in a comment.

If any of my former Government students read this, they might remember our discussions about the Articles of Confederation which was the first basis for our national government. This document gave the national government the power to set taxes and declare war but not the power to force states to pay taxes or send soldiers to fight.  Big surprise: by the mid 1780’s the federal government was broke and the country was in danger of falling apart. The United States weren’t very united. Fortunately, the Constitutional Convention (thanks in large part to James Madison) managed to write the Constitution and the country managed to ratify it. So we’re still here….and we are now the most powerful country in the world. But that doesn’t mean that life is all peachy-keen for all of our citizens.

I always say the Pledge of Allegiance at public events, but I don’t think we have ever had “liberty and justice for all.  That bothers me.  I think each and every one of us deserves the opportunity to be the best that we can be. We all deserve to be able to see a doctor when we need to, get an education that will take us as far as we can go in life, be able to afford a decent home to live in, and receive equal treatment from our government and its officials. And if the rights of one group can be dismissed by someone in “authority,” so can the rights of other groups. I truly believe that we are all in this boat together, and we can either row together or hold on and see where the rapids take us……and the only direction available is downstream.

The current political climate worries me. We don’t discuss ways to solve problems. We only seem to try to point the blame at the “other guy.” And when it comes to candidates, we often don’t have a lot of choice who ends up on the ballot. The most disturbing thing about last year’s election to me was that I heard the phrase “For the good of the Party” from both the Democratic and Republican Party officials. I thought the elections here were supposed to be “for the good of the people!” I don’t think I am alone in that feeling, because the two most popular candidates were Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump…both of whom were Party “Outsiders.” I will be honest with you; Bernie was my choice.  I chose him because he wasn’t the typical politician and because the things he was campaigning on were the same issues he has been talking about for over thirty years.  I think a lot of people voted for Mr. Trump for exactly the same reason, and I respect that.

I don’t think political opinions are the problem. I think the true problem is greed. Income inequality has spiraled out of control. While the bottom 90% of our country hold 73% of the debt, the top 1% control 90% of the wealth.  With the cost of political advertising, legislators must raise huge sums to run for re-election. Under the terms of Citizens United, a corporation can donate an unlimited amount to the legislators who will vote for bills that promote the corporation’s interest.  Whose interest will the legislator really vote for: the voters who elected him or her….or the lobbyist who funds the campaign? I can’t answer that for sure; I will leave it up to you. But I would like to see Citizens United overturned and lobbying made illegal. I would also like to see political advertising either banned or limited. Those negative ads are what people remember, and I hate to think we choose our legislators or president based on the negative ads places by the candidates opponent.  And have you noticed how many billionaires are running for office now? Our governer (Illinois) is a billionaire, and, as I have heard, so is the man who has already begun campaigning against him. I also heard that the head of a huge Wall Street Bank who calls himself a “true” billionaire is thinking of running in the next presidential election.

I am part of the 99% and will probably always be so…barring winning the lottery. And I don’t mind that. I know I like the company here better than I would like hobnobbing with billionaires. But how do we make things better for ourselves and our families. I am not sure….but I think we had better pick up the paddles and start to work before we are swept into the rapids.  A lot of you will not agree with my opinions or my selection of candidates (and by now you may well have guessed which two presidents I voted for who actually won), but I can’t think of any better people to have paddling with me. We just have to figure out which direction to go and work together to get there. I have my paddle ready. Who is with me?

Please, please, please feel free to reply, argue, or offer advice.

Thank you!

DF

 

 

 

Open For Discussion

I may be opening up my biggest “can of worms” ever, but I am venturing into the political arena today.  Not in the way you might expect…so don’t think I am going to be promoting my political opinions.

Last Sunday, I caught a little bit of a television interview with a Canadian official (didn’t catch his name or position) that really made me think. This is what he said that caught my attention:

“It seems like you Americans talk ‘at’ each other instead of ‘to’ each other.”

He went on use health care as an example. He said Canada has had a single payer system for over fifty years and the way they came to that decision was that people had group discussions about what they wanted in health care and conveyed that information to their elected officials. In contrast, we seem to wait for our elected officials to present a bill, and then we decide to support or reject it based on whether we agree politically with the party that presented it.

What would happen if we began an open and respectful dialogue with each other….and not just with people who agree with us politically?  I would bet that if each and every one of us “ordinary Americans” (not the billionaires…because I think the America they experience is a very different world than ours) made a list of what we need and want for ourselves and our children and grandchildren, those lists would have a lot in common.

I am going to start with my list. My list is not necessarily in the order of importance…more in the order in which it occurs to me.

I welcome…no, I request comments telling me how it would compare to yours.

  1. We need jobs that give a living wage so we can support our families. Incomes of CEO’s have risen from about 15 times that of their average worker in the 1950’s to 300 to 500 times the income of their average worker today. Meanwhile, the wages of their workers have not kept up with the rising cost of living. The United States has the most billionaires in the world (540) and the world’s richest man (Bill Gates). But the income inequality shows up in the fact that 10% of the people control 85% of the financial wealth in this country. That leaves 15% for the other 85% of us. I think that if we had fewer mega-corporations and more small businesses that might help. I am not an expert in economics, so I would appreciate your ideas.

 

  1. We need to maintain good public schools. I was a teacher for 35 years and worked with every grade from K through 12 as either a teacher or counselor during that time. I worked in some excellent schools, and I know that our teachers are dedicated. But we need to provide enough funds to those public schools so that they can continue to provide a quality education for the coming generations. Beck Area Career Center (now Career Center of Southern Illinois), where I spent the majority of my career, also offered training level vocational classes. This means that the students could have the skills necessary for an entry-level position in the vocation they had been studying when they graduated. I think there should be more schools like that. The Vocational classes motivate the students to do well in their academic classes as well. Also there are jobs out there that employers can’t fill because they require vocational training. If every student in the country had access to these classes, that might change.

 

  1. As I have gotten older, I have become painfully aware of the importance of a good health care system. So I think we need to make sure that medical care is available to everyone in the country. Drug costs have skyrocketed in the last few years, and we pay more in the United States than most other countries do. Pharmaceutical Reps make about 2/3 of what a doctor makes, which tells me something about the profit in that business. “Big Pharma” will tell us that they spend a lot on research and development, but in actuality most of their “research” is to find ways to tweak the composition of a drug enough to be able to renew the patent over and over and prevent the production of cheaper generic drugs. Most of the development of new drugs comes from government and privately funded foundations.

 

  1. This is a beautiful world; if you don’t believe that just look at the picture with this post. That was the view from our land across from the Purgatory Ski Area.  I have lived in the mountains, the South, and in the Midwest. I have marveled at the beauty of the ocean, the rivers, and cliffs. I think we need to protect our environment so that future generations will be inherit that same beautiful world. Stephen Hawking recently said that this planet might be uninhabitable within the next 100 years. I find that possibility very scary. I won’t be here, but my great grandchildren might be. I am not an expert on climate change, but when 16 of the 17 hottest years on record have been in the 21st century (and that is only through 2016…we haven’t finished this one yet) I think I see a pattern here.

 

  1. We need to find a way to make this country safer. I see too much violence here. Note to readers: I am not advocating taking away anyone’s gun. Nor am I recommending that we strap a revolver on our kindergartners so they can protect themselves. According to Google, there were 477 mass shootings in the US last year (meaning more than one person having been shot). What can we do to improve this? I have no idea, but I hope someone does.

 

  1. We need to find a way to talk TO each other instead of AT each other. Any suggestions?

Deborah’s Random Thoughts on the Universe (and smaller things)

This picture from the Hubble Telescope is called the Hummingbird Galaxy. It once (millions of  years ago) was a spiral galaxy until the gravitational pull of the oval galaxy below….the shape the hummingbird appears to be hovering over….caused the spiral to bend into the shape we see in the  picture. These two galaxies are about 300 million light years from Earth. And here we have a picture of them. I find that mind boggling, but that is not the focus of my post today. The galaxy does resemble a hummingbird, but of course a real hummingbird would never be so still.

That factwas reinforced when I tried to take a picture of one at our hummingbird feeder this afternoon. If I had had my old film camera, I think I might have been able to get it because it was much easier to set its shutter speed than the digital one I was forced into using when stores stopped selling film.  At any rate, all I could get was two frames with the blur of the hummingbird by the feeder and the rest with the feeder all by itself but in focus. That’s all right; it is entertaining enough just to watch them. They may only weigh about a quarter of an ounce, but I think they see themselves as a lot bigger than they really are.

There is this one little guy with a red throat that seems to think he rules the feeder. He will swoop in to chase off any intruder and then retreat to a branch on a nearby tree to make sure it doesn’t come back.  Once he hovered over our 130 pound Bouvier des Flandres as if he was trying to intimidate the dog. Outlaw didn’t pay any attention, so the little guy flew away.  And he isn’t the only one who will chase other hummingbirds.  Any time one comes to eat, it is a good bet that before long another one will swoop in and chase it away, but the little ruby-throat is the only one I have seen lurking in trees waiting for tresspassers.  There are four feeding ports on the feeder, so there is room for all….but they just can’t seem to get along. Kind of like us.

Lets face it. We humans are a lot like that. It seems to me that we tend to seek competition rather than cooperation.  We fear failure instead of seeing it as merely a first (or second..or third) attempt to succeed. No one gets everything right on the first try, but somehow we feel we should…especially in a world sharply divided into “winners” and losers.” We see compromise as a failure rather than a way to solve a problem.  When did we reach the point where disagreements had to be hostile?  Are we chasing each other away from the “feeder” because there isn’t enough for everyone or because we want it all for ourself? Are we so busy shouting from our own personal “soap boxes” that we can’t hear what anyone else is saying? I know that I can learn a lot more by listening than by speaking, but I am as guilty as anyone of wanting to get my point across first. I know, though, that I don’t want to be the hummingbird sitting in the tree just waiting to chase someone away from the feeder.  So maybe it is time to resolve to listen first, then think things through, and only then respond.

There are a lot of problems in our world today.  Listening to the daily news can be enough to make us want to hide under the covers. But we are all in this together, and if we stick together and learn from each other instead of criticize each other or draw arbitrary “lines in the sand,” we can make a difference. It might be only a small difference, but hey…like the hummingbirds, we’re not nearly as big as we think we are….so even a small difference is a step in the right direction. As a very wise man once wrote: “The journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one’s feet.”

Improvisation and Creative Thinking

I’d like to back up a bit so I can make sure my readers understand what kind of drama class I have been talking about. The primary goal of our school was to offer the academic classes required for graduation, so we didn’t offer many electives. Our school was built on the site of a former Nike Missle Base and used the original buildings for our classrooms, so we didn’t have a theater or a stage. Even if we had had them, our students were from a dozen different districts, some of which were a forty five minute bus ride away.  So after-school practices would have been out of the question. We had to use the time and space we had in the classroom, and I was also more interested in using drama to teach them to think creatively than to have them memorize lines.

When I got permission to begin the class, my first major teaching resource was my daughter who had just finished her MFA degree in Theater. She taught me the basics of improv and several theater games and was always there when I needed advice. My other resources were improvisation books by Viola Spolin, CDs of mime and comic greats like Marcel Marceau, Red Skelton, and Ernie Kovacs, an excellent video on beginning stage combat techniques, and films like “Benny and Joon” (for Johnny Depp’s pantomime routines) and “The Princess Bride” (for just about the best stage combat ever).

We learned balance and movement, practiced quick improvisation exercises, and learned how to build scenes with a solid beginning, middle, and end. We used hats, puppets, and a variety of small props to create characters and build scenes. My students learned how to apply classic mime makeup and communicate a scene without a word spoken. They learned to improvise dialogue to create cohesive scenes working alone or in groups, and they had fun doing it. They were also pretty good at it.

Our first major project came when our school planned a Renaissance Fair. Each teacher was to put together a display, demonstration, or lesson on what something in their field would have been like in the Renaissance Era. My drama class was excited to be involved, and after a little research, we decided to use Commedia dell’Arte. This fit us perfectly because it was improvisation based on a scenario where each scene was outlined with which characters were on stage and the basic plot of the scene, leaving them to improvise the specific action and dialogue. We chose a three-act scenario titled The Red Hat, courtesy of the internet, and a collection of short cannovacci (one-scene humorous skits) and got to work.

Commedia dell’Arte used stock characters: The servants (Zanni) , The old men (Vecchi) who might be greedy, know-it-alls, or have some distinguishing trait, The young lovers (Inamoratti), and the boasting Captains or Capitani and their confidant female counterpoints.  Commedia used masked actors for the major parts, and the mask would identify the character type. So our first project was to make and decorate the masks.

Then it was time to get to work on The Red Hat. Each act had at least 11 scenes, so we started at the top and worked through them slowly….one act at a time…until it began to come together. I confess there were times when we all wondered if we had been too ambitious, but the cast kept working and each day the project came together a little better. I made a story board for each act with the scenes outlined so the actors could keep track of what was up next.

We borrowed the LPN program’s adjoining rooms for the performance. The larger one was our “theater” and the smaller one was the backstage prep area where they watched the story board and prepared for their entrances.  I was in the “theater,” leaving them to manage the “backstage” preparation and entrances on their own.  I was a little nervous on the day of the performance because I knew how much it meant to them to pull off this rather grand undertaking. I needn’t have been concerned. They were flawless. All the time and effort came together in a smooth performance that was absolutely hilarious. They were a big hit with the audience! I wish I could post pictures of that day, but if I had the time to take any, they have disappeared.

Thesuccess of “The Red Hat” helped secure drama as an elective. Enrollment grew, and the next year we had a World War II fair complete with swing dancers and a USO show with routines from Abbot and Costello, Burns and Allen, and several others of that era. Within two years we had formed Outside The Box Improv Troupe and were presenting drama workshops to area school. A few years later we created Captain Cool and The Courage Kids and began seven years of anti-bullying workshops.

I am proud of the Troupe’s success, but the value of the class went beyond the Troupe. Not every student was ready or wanted to perform with the Troupe, but each and every one who chose to take the class had a creative outlet, learned to think on their feet and work as a team, and (the most difficult part for some) learned to select “appropriate” dialogue and actions for their scenes.  They learned that there are many ways to get from point A to point B….and to have fun doing it.

 

Setting the Bar High

The majority of my teaching career was with a group defined as “At Risk” high school students. When one of the principals I worked with was asked what students that label applied to, he responded, “All of them.”  I couldn’t agree more!

While it is true that most of our students were behind in credits when they came to us, many  of them had been doing all right in school until they hit a major “bump in the road,” and fell behind. Our job was to help them get back on track, and the overwhelming majority of them did just that. The fact that we offered training-level vocational programs (meaning they could obtain the skills needed for an entry level position) was one major factor. The fact that we had great administrators and a dedicated faculty was the other. My point is that we didn’t “lower the bar” for them; we helped them rise to it.  Our students graduated with CNA certification (and at least one EMT), state awards in welding, accounting, business, and other fields…and frequently with good jobs.

Outside The Box was an example of how my students rose to meet my high expectations. When we started the Troupe, we taught Drama skills covered in the Illinois Learning Standards at area elementary and middle schools.  At every school we visited, the faculty praised my students, their performances, and their interactions with the children.  One elementary school asked us to put together a multi-disciplinary workshop on “movement” using the ISBE standards in PE, Music, and Drama. We divided the Troupe, and I put the three best leaders in charge  of the groups.  Each group prepared their activities.  That day, we worked with over 600 students with our drummers signaling the time to move from station to station. We were all tired by the end of the day, but it was a great success.  I set the bar high; they leaped over it!

Then we got the grant and created a program that was later given a commendation by the Illinois State Board of Education. When they came back to school that August, I knew I was asking a lot of them, but their immediate response was, “Sure; we can do it.” We started out by talking about their experiences with bullying….and there were some on each side of the equation. They figured out the Superhero angle, and then we started creating situations for the scenarios. They never complained about the work (drama class had always had ample time to “play”) but continued with enthusiasm until we had it done. I set the bar higher; they went over it.

This applies to any classroom….and to dealing with bullying situations. If the administration and/or faculty in a school lets minor bullying issues slide by, I can almost guarantee those incidents will escalate. The bar of acceptable behavior has been set way too low. But if a “budding bully” is disciplined fairly and effectively for verbal bullying, that might put an end to his or her “bullying career.”

It is also important to create the expectation that bystanders will not just watch bullying happen but will say or do something to help the target..unless it would not be safe for them to do so.  So the classroom lessons need to include the plan to find an adult to help if they do not feel safe in speaking up. In our workshops, we also taught the difference between bullying and unintentionally harmful actions and the difference between tattling and important telling, and even the youngest students were able to come up with examples of each of those.  They were also excited to take part in the scenarios and offer ideas of what the bystanders could do to help.

From what we saw in the group presentations and in the classrooms during the seven years we did the workshops, I believe that with just a little time set aside on a regular basis to teach the children  what bullying is and what they can do to help the targets of the bullying, the statistics would start to look a whole lot better.  We have to set the bar of expectations high if we are going to change things. Then we have to help the children reach it.

 

 

 

 

Captain Cool and the Courage Kids

Kids love acting. When you step out of yourself and into a role, you can be braver, stronger, smarter, and more powerful than you ever dreamed you could be. And you can win every time! So the best parts of the Captain Cool (aka Cecil in the picture above) workshops were the visits to the classrooms. There, the children got to join our Troupe in acting out difficult situations with the absolute guarantee that they would come out on top. After all, there was a super hero there to help them. The classrooms were also important because that gave us an opportunity to work with the teachers as well.

Bully statistics show that about 3.2 million students are the targets of bullying at school each year. Adults intervene in less than 10% of those incidents. About 29% of bullying events at school take place in a classroom, too, but of course the bully will be much more covert in that location than in the hallways or on the bus. Keep in mind, too, that only about  half of teachers nationwide receive training in a school-wide anti-bullying program. Not all schools even have a school-wide anti-bullying program. As more and more schools create and adopt these programs, the statistics will reflect the change. I am happy to say that almost every teacher whose classroom we visited in the seven years we offered our workshops was enthusiastic and engaged in creating and discussing the scenarios we performed in their rooms. Some of them, as they later reported to me, continued using the technique to deal with situations that arose in their classrooms.

The technique is simple. First, we decide what kind of bullying we are dealing with. Then we set up the situation. I’ll use one of our “ready-made” scenarios we wrote that first year as an example. A new student is introduced to the class; his name is Stuart. The classroom bully decides to give him a nickname: “Stinky Stu.” Of course every child in the room laughed (for real….but don’t worry….Stuart was played by one of my actors), and that is when Captain Cool froze the action. The children in the scene loved holding their pose while their teacher, the rest of their class, the Troupe, and I discussed what they could say or do to help Stuart. Then the Captain restarted things, and they followed through with the plan. We would progress through verbal and social bullying up to physical and find appropriate interventions.

Peer interventions are more common than adult interventions, and they are actually more effective until you reach the higher levels of physical bullying. This is a good thing because teachers and administrators can’t be everywhere, and the empowerment of children learning that united they can accomplish great things is a great life lesson. But those Courage Kids…the ones who are willing to take a stand and help the target of bullyingt…need adult support. And adults should always take any report of bullying seriously enough to investigate it thoroughly.

The biggest myth that we must combat is that bullying isn’t a real problem. When about 160,000 students skip school each day because of bullying, there is a problem. And it isn’t just the targets whose future is at risk. About 60% of boys who bullied others from 1st to 9th grades are convicted of at least one crime by the time they are 24 years old, and 40% of them have three convictions. So the bullies need help and intervention as well.

It is a lot easier to turn our heads and pretend nothing is wrong, but that only results in the continuation of a status quo where sensitive young people suffer from the abuse of bullies throughout their education and are forever marked by those events…or worse. If neither you nor anyone you care about has ever been bullied, I hope you will understand that you are quite lucky. And I hope that you will support your local school system’s anti-bullying program or strongly encourage them to create one.  The children are our future, and they all deserve our protection.

The Play’s The Thing: Using Theater To Combat Bullying

Note: No students were bullied in the production of the above photograph.

I don’t recall a single discussion of the problem of bullying in any of the education classes I took for my bachelor’s or master’s degrees. Nor do I recall it being an issue in faculty meetings until later in my career. So I suppose it isn’t terribly strange that although I was a teacher and counselor for thirty-five years, the problem of bullying in school wasn’t on my radar until I got a message from the Director of our school in the summer of 2007.

 

I worked in seven different schools in my career, and I was very fortunate to work with excellent administrators. But that Director stood out in her dedication to making our Vocational Center and Alternative High School the best possible environment for the students, faculty, and staff. The biggest challenge was the budget, and she was tireless in searching for funding and grants since we weren’t a district with our own tax base.

 

What does this have to do with bullying? Well a few years earlier, I had started an Improv Troupe: “Outside The Box.” Our school had our own school busses then, and the principal and previous Director had supported us in providing drama workshops in the rural elementary and middle schools. Unfortunately, by 2007, we had gone to leased busses and a much tighter budget. The previous school year, the Director and I had driven the Troupe to shorter presentations for local organizations and lunchtime entertainment at Senior Citizen’s centers.

 

I was afraid that Outside The Box was over, but the Director wouldn’t give up. The message I got that summer vacation was that she was applying for a health and safety grant for bullying awareness, and did I think we could use Outside The Box to take this to area schools. I immediately responded: Of course we could!  Then I sent a message to the student leader of the Troupe the year before asking him if he thought the group could do this. His response was typical of his sense of humor: “If they won’t, I’ll beat them up.”

 

So I started researching anti-bullying programs and found the “Take a Stand; Lend a Hand” program on the government site. This program focused on encouraging bystanders who witness bullying incidents to speak up and help the target of the bully. Bullies have the power in the interaction because they are stronger and more forceful than the targets they select. Bystanders in a bullying situation typically remain silent….mostly to avoid becoming a future target. But if the bystanders unite, they have the power because there are more of them…especially if they learn how to speak up in a way that defends the target without picking a fight with the bully. And with the teacher on their side, their victory is assured. But how do you get them to speak up?

 

That was the question I took to my Troupe when we returned to school, and together we created Captain Cool and The Courage Kids. Just to be clear, my students came up with the names….my suggestions were totally lame and, fortunately, quickly overruled.  Casey got her brother to create a logo for the Captain, which we used to make buttons and stickers. I enlarged the logo to put on the Captains shirt and cape. Together, we wrote scenarios covering the various types of bullying. At a strategic point Captain Cool (who was so cool he could freeze time) would stop the action and ask what the bystanders could do to help the target of the bullying. Once we had a suggestion, Captain would “unfreeze” the situation, and the Troupe would act out the solution. The children who came up with the suggestions would receive Courage Kid stickers. One student who had been bullied through school shared an experience he let us use as a closing scene for our middle school presentations. We did the program for seven years, and each time I told that story as the Troupe acted it out silently behind me, the students were riveted to the scene.

 

We filled our workshop dates as soon as the word was out, and the program was a success. We did large group presentations first then went to individual classrooms where the children got to help act out the scenarios. The children we worked with were eager to offer suggestions and some even shared their own experience as a target. If the individual teachers had a situation they wanted us to act out, we improvised a scenario, and the class got to talk about how to make it better. Our ultimate goal was to offer teachers a way to approach situations that arose in their classes…acting them out and stopping the action to get ideas of how to solve the problem.

 

At one of the first workshops we did, we were working in a classroom when a little boy came to the door and Captain Cool went to talk to him. They left together, and I took over the discussion in the room until he returned. Later I learned that the little boy had been bullied on the playground right after our group presentation. His teacher had sent him to talk to the principal, but he had gone to find Captain Cool instead. Then, with his own personal super-hero beside him, he had gone to see the principal.

 

That year was a great learning experience. One statistic I found was that 25% of teachers did not believe bullying was a problem (now about 20%), so I guess I was not the only teacher who did not have this on my radar. But the seven years we did this program showed me that it is, indeed, a problem. My own students, as we prepared the scenarios and rehearsed them over and over again, shared their experiences on both sides of the issue. And by acting out situations they had suggested, children in the classrooms we visited had a chance to practice being a Courage Kid…and making a difference. That is my favorite statistic about bullying: When bystanders intervene to help the target, the bullying incident stops….often in less than thirty seconds.