Hazlet Middle School: Week of Respect

November 25th, 2013 | Posted by Jessica in Thoughts - (0 Comments)

Phew!  So it looks like 2013 National Bullying Prevention and Awareness Month is behind us!  I hope you all partook in some awesome anti-bullying  events or even better, some pro-kindness events.  Some schools and individuals really stepped it up a notch, and I want to take a moment to share some of the fantastic initiative that were sent me in the last two months. The first of these recap posts features Halzet Middle School, of Halzet, New Jersey.

During Week of Respect, Hazlet Middle School students were asked to contribute quotes related to kindness, which were read on the loud speaker for all to hear.  Students were also asked to sign a pledge to do at least one act of kindness during the week.  In addition to student activities, Principal Christine McCoid invited bullying speaker, Ronnie Bachman, to talk to the students about acceptance and diversity.

Pictures from their Week of Respect:

Hazlet Middle School

Hazlet Middle School

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As well as this fantastic video (which won’t embed, but you can find at the link!): http://animoto.com/play/5A43MUvJtwYHo7fuIldxfw

Thanks very much to Hazlet Middle School for sharing your Week of Kindness with us!. We hope students will remember these lessons throughout the rest of the school year and beyond!

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MKC Updates & New Partnerships

September 9th, 2013 | Posted by Jessica in Thoughts - (0 Comments)

Happy September!

We’ve had a ton going on behind the scenes these past few months and I’m super excited to share these updates with you guys.

1. As you may have noticed in the sidebar on the right, we are now partners with and proudly supporting Submit the Documentary. You may remember that we did a review of the film before it came out last March. If you didn’t get a chance to read our review, you can find it here.  Submit the Documentary, the film, is an extraordinary look into cyber bullying.  Equally as wonderful, the website serves as a fantastic resource, providing information on how to go about reporting cyber bullying. Go to the links to see what I’m talking about and click here to find out about viewing the documentary.

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2. Melissa Wardy, of Pigtail Pals and Ballcap Buddies and Brave Girls Want, recently emailed us to see if MyKindnessCounts.com would be interested in partnering with Brave Girls Want as part of the newly formed Brave Girls Alliance.  This is something we’re super excited about.  The Brave Girls Alliance is a powerhouse think tank and advocacy group of all-stars in the girl power space designed to aggregate our communities and our voices so that corporations, media creators, and retailers can understand how important it is to send out positive, empowering message for and about girls.  Starting on 10/11, the UN’s International Day of the Girl, Brave Girls Want will be flashing girl-positive messages for 7 days on the jumbotron in Times Square. Awesome!

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3.  You may know that while in Connecticut, I served on the Board of GLSEN Connecticut.  For those of you who aren’t familiar, GLSEN is The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network.  It’s a national organization aimed at creating safe schools for all students, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.  What’s really exciting is that Tucson also has a chapter and I’m now serving as Volunteer Coordinator on the Board of GLSEN Tucson.  I’ve been a huge supporter of GLSEN for years, so I’m really excited to get involved in the community here.  I’ve actually already attended a meeting to brainstorm ideas on a Trans-themed workshop for teachers and educators here in the city.  If you’re interested in finding a GLSEN chapter in your state, let me know!

GLSEN Tucson

4. Outside of my work with GLSEN, I also serve on the Board of It Can Happen Here, a volunteer-based movement committed to reducing violence in our country by inspiring others to take action in their own hometowns and on the national level in the areas of bullying, education, gun safety, mental healthcare, parenting and poverty.  I, of course, mostly deal with the issue of bullying, but my interests also fall into the education, mental healthcare, and parenting areas as well.  What’s really exciting is that we’ve created a group called the ICHH Teen Coalition, which as of right now, is a Facebook group.  The ICHH Teen Coalition was established to unite the youth of our nation around the issue of violence prevention.  I’ve been put in charge of leading this group, so if any of you guys are interested in working with us, please let me know or go here and sign up!

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5. MyKindnessCounts.com is now an official “Champion Against Bullying” on PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center‘s website.  You can find us next to the Arizona tab (since we recently moved from CT to AZ).  What’s really cool about PACER is that they’ve organized and listed a bunch of anti-bullying initiatives and activities that are promoting Anti-Bullying Month, October 2013.  We’re really honored to be included with all of these other incredible organizations.  Check out PACER’s website for a ton of awesome resources and information about bullying in the United States.

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I think that’s it for now!  We may have a few more partnerships coming within the next few weeks, so I’ll update as those come to fruition.  If you have any questions, or would like more info, let me know!

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Chase Anichini Co-Author Baffle That BullyMeet Chase Anichini, Co-Author of Baffle That Bully!

A Children’s Book That Shows You That You Don’t Have to be a Victim of Bullying Just Because You’re a Target of Bullying

My Experience With Bullying:

Hi! I’m Chase. I’m 10 years old, and I just finished 4th grade. I want to tell you about my experience with being bullied and what I did about it. For me, school was great until 2nd grade.  None of my close friends from 1st grade were in my class which kind of bummed me out, so I was really excited to make friends with a girl in my class. We liked each other so much that we spent all of our time together. And then one day out of the blue, she started being mean to me. She criticized my clothes, rolled her eyes when I talked, made fun of my name and told me I was stupid. I was so confused! This girl was my friend, and I didn’t do anything wrong. I kept thinking, “What happened?” and “Did I do something wrong?” My feelings were very hurt, and I think what happened with her made me kind of sensitive and defensive.

One day some boys in my class heard her telling me to stop being so sensitive, and that must have made them think it would be fun or easy to pick on me. So then those boys started saying mean things to me. They would tell me to shut up whenever I talked and said that nobody cared about me and no one wanted to hear about my life. I didn’t really want to tell the teacher, because I thought that would be giving them extra attention. So I tried to pretend like I didn’t care and tried to ignore them.

But they wouldn’t leave me alone! During lunch and recess I tried to find my friends from 1st grade, but this girl and these boys followed me around constantly pestering me and picking on me. So even on the days when I did find my good friends, those bullies still there in the background trying to ruin my day. Some days I hid in the bathroom so they couldn’t find me. I was so sad.

I talked to my parents about it, and they talked to the teacher. My desk was moved away from the bullies, and the school agreed not to put the girl (who was the worst bully) and me in the same class in 3rd grade.  Then came summer, and it was so wonderful! I had months away from those bullies!

On the first day of 3rd grade, I saw that the boy who was the head bully boy from 2nd grade was in my class again. He had OK behavior during the first few weeks, but then, like clockwork, it all started again. And just my luck, he got two other boys involved, and the three of them started to try to ruin 3rd grade for me.  They picked on me constantly, mimicked me and messed with the things in my desk.

I told the teacher and she got the principal involved. The boys got in trouble for one day, and then it all started again. I felt like I had nowhere to go and nowhere to hide. I was miserable, and nothing was helping.

What I Did to Make Things Better:

That was when I got fed up! I decided I had had enough, and there was no way they were going to win. All along I had been talking to my parents about how to handle the bullies, but over Christmas break we decided to change things up and created this strategy – these three steps – that I would follow every time one of these kids was mean to me. Now, I can’t tell you EXACTLY what the 3 steps are (you’ll have to read the book for that) but it’s a combination of (1) How to maintain your cool while (2) Doing or saying something that will confuse (baffle!) the bully. By combining these 3 steps, I hoped to stay and calm and happy no matter what they said or did.

I went back to school armed with my new strategy; I decided I’d call it a game, because that would make it seem more like fun. I was actually kind of nervous the first day I tried it, but it worked! Here’s what happened: this boy started saying mean things to me, and rather than react or try to hide, I did my calming stuff (read the book!) Then I said to him kindly, “Hey, you play basketball, don’t you? How’s the season going?”

I ‘m telling you, you have never seen a more confused kid! He kind of screwed up his face, scrunched his eyebrows, and started stammering, “What … What… What are you talking about basketball for? I didn’t say anything about basketball!” Then he just walked off shaking his head!

 After that, the next day, I was sort of looking forward to going to school so I could try it again. Day after day, my game continued to work! After a couple weeks, I was excited to go to school because I felt back in control, and I could handle anything! I made it impossible for the bullies to enjoy picking on me! And guess what happened next? They decided to leave me alone!

One of the most important things about the game is that when I played it, I was not only calm but nice – sincerely nice. That’s all part of not sinking to their level and not letting them change me. Maybe by treating them with kindness, they might even see that is a better thing to do? Well, at least I hoped so!

Baffle That Bully Book Cover Image How I Realized I Wanted to Help Other Kids:

I was happy with the situation for a while, but then I noticed that my old bullies had started picking on some other kids. I remember coming home one day and saying to my mom, “Those other kids should do what I did to get rid of those bullies.” And my mom asked, “Well, would you like to tell them what you did?” Right now, I would for sure just walk up to one of those kids and tell them about my game, but then, I wasn’t really ready for that. It was still too recent you know? So I said, “Not really. But I’d still like to help somehow.”

Then we brainstormed:  should we make a video and put it on YouTube? Should we tell the school what we figured out? Should we write a book about my experiences? How about a book with a cute fictional character? Now, you’re talking! It seemed easier to share my personal story through a cute cartoon character than as myself.

My mom and I wrote the first draft together. My sister and I named the characters while we were swinging on the swings in our backyard. Then my sister offered to draw the characters exactly how I described them. I said I would have to be the one who colored them in. That is pretty much it!

To tell the truth, when the book first came out, I felt a little funny telling people about it, because I didn’t want anyone to think I was saying something bad about my school, and I didn’t want people to be able to figure out who I was talking about. I didn’t want to make those kids lives even more difficult – even though they had been so mean and rude to me.  That’s not the way to make things better.

Then I realized that the point of my game and the point of the book is overcoming bullying by sticking up for yourself, believing in yourself, and treating everyone with kindness – not ever sinking to their level. So, by telling people about the book I was telling them about something positive and helpful – I wasn’t saying something bad about those bullies. Over time, I have realized, that it’s really not about the bullies at all; it’s about me! What matters is how I feel about myself, how I treat others, and how I react to others when they do something I think is “mean.” Thinking someone is mean is just that: a thought.  And my thoughts are something I can control.

The first time I read my book to someone else was when my teacher at my new school invited me to read it to my 4th grade class this past spring. It was awesome! The kids in my class were literally on the edge of their seats as I read each chapter – it was very cool! Then everybody sat down and did some of the activities that Scarlett (the main character) asks them to do. Everyone was excited to go out to recess to see if there were any opportunities to try out the game. Some of them came back very excited because they had tried the strategy and it worked! Kids who had been mean to them had literally walked away kind of confused because of what my classmates did. The kids in my class felt pretty in control!

What’s Next for Scarlett & Me:Ask Scarlett

Now, we have a website where my mom and I take questions from kids who’ve read the book and we answer as Scarlett – helping individual kids with their own bully problems. My mom has been creating some happy positive art work and quotes that can help people feel like they aren’t alone. Everything we do on the website feeds through to Facebook and Twitter; my mom does all of that, because I’m too young for all of that stuff!

We are already thinking about other friendship and school kid troubles that we’d like to write about. Scarlett and her friends are going to tackle some other topics soon; maybe it will become a series. I also think it would be really cool to have lunchboxes with Scarlett on them saying, “I’m a bully baffler!”

I never want anyone to go through what I went through. I wanted to write the book and share what I learned, because it changed my life and helped me be happy again. If I can get through it, other kids can, too.

I would like to express a huge thank you to both Chase and her mom, Amy.  Chase, you are incredible.  Keep up the amazing work with your head held high. You’ll continue to inspire so many people.  Few things for you readers: Like Baffle That Bully on Facebook; Follow @BaffleThatBully on Twitter; To ask Scarlett, the Heroine of Baffle that Bully, a question, click here; Check out the Baffle That Bully website here; And to order the Baffle That Bully book, please head over to their Amazon page here.  

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Back-to-School Bullying

August 7th, 2013 | Posted by Jessica in Thoughts - (0 Comments)

It’s that time of year again, isn’t it?  Mid August is approaching and students, parents, and teachers are all getting ready to go back to school.  Back-to-school bullying is definitely a hot topic in August and while it’s certainly been on mind, I’m in the midst of moving to Arizona for graduate school and I’m a little behind on writing up my own post (although it’s coming!).  In the meantime, I wanted to direct you over to the fantastic blog, Straight Parent, Gay Kid.  I’ve mentioned this blog on MKC a few times in the past.  As you may remember, Wesley Cullen Davidson is a fantastic writer, who also happens to be a mother of a son who is gay.  She uses her experiences in a slew of areas to write up great posts.  Wesley recently did a piece on the topic of back-to-school bullying and she was kind enough to mention MyKindnessCounts. Please head over to her blog to read more. :)

Hope you’re all enjoying the last few weeks of summer!

 

 

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“Dilly’s Dog’s Disguises” By: Emma Andrews

Emma Andrews, an author from the UK, recently sent me her book “Dilly’s Dog’s Disguises” to feature on MyKindnessCounts. After going to Emma’s website to learn more, I felt this story of six-year-old Dilly, who, diagnosed with cerebral palsy and her special helper, Dotty, would be a great addition to MyKindnessCounts. “Dilly’s Dog’s Disguises” is a particularly special story because Emma Andrews was diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy and was taunted by classmates for years. I love that Emma is using her personal experiences to take a stand against bullying. 

“Dilly’s Dog’s Disguises” tells the story of six year old girl named Dilly who is picked on at school by some of her classmates for walking differently. Dilly has cerebral palsy and from an early age, her parents have assured her that her disability makes her special and unique. However at school, the other children whisper, point, and snicker at her as she walks down the hallway, leaving Dilly upset and fearful of school.

One night after talking to her parents about the mean boys and girls, she lays in bed crying. Dilly’s mother gives her some suggestions on how to handle the bullies, including relying on their family dog, Dotty. Dilly and Dotty make a pact that whenever Dilly is made fun of at school, Dotty will come to the rescue and help Dilly learn how to speak up and tell an adult. The book takes the reader through Dilly’s various activities, including interactions with mean peers as she is swimming, in the lunch line, at painting class, and as she eats lunch on a bench with another friend. Each time Dilly experiences problems with mean classmates, she calls to Dotty who magically appears disguised as an adult to remind the others students that school is for everyone.

One of the things I liked most about Emma Andrew’s, “Dilly’s Dog’s Disguises” was that she took the reader through various contexts where Dilly faced problems. Through the adorable illustrations you see Dilly’s interactions with other children who are bullied and with her parents as she tells them her struggles.  I also really enjoyed the magical, imaginative piece in which Dotty comes to her rescue when she needs a good friend and also reminds Dilly’s peers that school is for everyone and people should be kind to one another.

Overall, I thought the book was a great read and one that a young child could easily identify with. As I got to the end of the story, the only piece I thought was missing was Dilly learning how to better deal with the bullies, especially as a child with a disability. While her dog coming to the rescue was a good way to give Dilly a positive solution and friend to talk to, I wish that Dotty could have been able to teach Dilly a little more about dealing with her peers.  Maybe this could be a Part 2! :) However, Dilly is a six year old girl and perhaps a parent would simply want someone their child could identify with rather than a “how to solve a problem” aspect to the story.

Thanks very much for sharing your story with us, Emma! I loved it! :)

Looking to buy “Dilly’s Dog’s Disguises”?  Click here or go to Emma Andrew’s website.

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Way back when MKC was first created, I shared this video from the “Kids React” series on YouTube.  While the series has many good episodes, I enjoyed hearing what kids like yourselves had to say about bullying.  If you haven’t seen it, it’s a good one!

A few weeks ago, I received an email from Benny Fine, one of the brothers of Fine Brothers Production, the production company behind the “Kids React” and “Teens React” series. Due to the massive impact the story of Amanda Todd had on people all over the world, Benny and his brother Rafi asked teens to share their honest reactions to what happened to Amanda. You can find Barry’s email below along with “Teens React to Bullying (Amanda Todd)”.

Hi Jessica,

Hope you are well. Information is below on a very important episode of our React show.

Our award winning shows document the opinions of different age groups (Kids, Teens, Elders) on what’s trending in the web, pop culture and more, but we also address serious issues in hopes to raise more awareness for what are the major issues in their lives that needs to change.

In this week’s episode we discuss bullying and cyberbullying with teenagers by showing and discussing the recent video and suicide of Amanda Todd. As you’ll see, every single one of the teens on our show have been bullied in one way or another over time, and it has had profound affects on them.   From the stories these kids bravely share with us and even shed some tears along the way, we get just a small sense of just how large a problem this has become and how most of the schools, parents, and media do not fully understand the gravity of this controversial situation especially when it comes to the internet’s role in all of it. Thanks to bullying at school and on the internet teens now feel they can never escape the torment and bullying, and that there are no real consequences for those that are hateful to others.

We hope you will take the time to watch this episode. We are very proud of the willingness of these teens to speak out so publicly and we hope this episode can lead to continued discussions on what steps to take both online and off to start curbing the issue.  Thanks for your consideration on posting this important episode of “Teens React”.

Best,
Benny & Rafi Fine

I’m always very mindful when referencing self-harm and suicidal thoughts and behaviors on the blog, but the story of Amanda Todd seemed to affect so many people around the world and I wanted to share this video. If you are experiencing any of these thoughts, please reach out for help. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline can be reached by dialing 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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Step Up and Be a Friend

June 27th, 2012 | Posted by Jessica in Your Voices - (0 Comments)

Jessica Jumper is 25 years old and lives in Texas.  Here is her story:

Hi, My name is Jessica Jumper.
I have been bullied all the way through high school. I got teased and picked on. I even had a threat made at me. I have had many surgeries due to my special needs. In the 5th grade, I got into fight because no one took care of it [being bullying].
I want to tell anybody that if you see someone being bullied, step up be a friend. It is not fun to be picked on. I have Chromosome 18 disorder. It means one of of the Chromosomes of my arm is missing from the 18th Chromosome. I do have special need and while I look different from everybody else, it doesn’t mean [that it's okay] to pick on people that look or talk funny.


On what to do if you’re being bullied:

[If you are being bullied by someone else], I would say find an adult a teacher, parent, or someone you can trust and someone you know will help you. If [you don't want to do that], try to talk to the person bullying you. Maybe that person could have been bullied too. I have done that before and it has sometimes helped.
Just be strong and don’t bully anyone. People don’t realize that [the pain that comes with] name calling does last more then bones getting broke or physical pain.
Glad to help someone.

Sincerely,
Jessica Jumper

To learn more about Chromosome 18, click here.

Jess, thank you so much for sharing both your story and your advice!

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Today’s post is written by Megan, a 13 year old girl from Oklahoma. She helps run a Twitter account, @Help4Teenagers. Megan was kind enough to share a story with us about a time she decided to speak up for one of the best friends who was being bullied. Instead of being a bystander who witnessed the harassment and didn’t say anything, she decided to speak up and talk to a guidance counselor at school. While the decision to talk to an adult wasn’t necessarily an easy one (one of Megan’s other close friends’ boyfriend was the one doing the bullying), she decided to go with her gut and take a stand against something she knew was wrong. Read Megan’s story below! :)

Hi — My name is Megan. I’m 13 and from Oklahoma.

I’ve never personally been bullied very much and it doesn’t matter to me as much as my friend’s story does.  He’s a boy, and you know how they often are about ‘you have to be sporty’ and dress this way and act this way, but for my friend, it was completely different.  He talks different, not because he’s from another country or anything, but it’s just how he talks.  Some boys and yes, even girls say that he sounds “Like a girl on their period”.  It broke my heart to see that the awful way these people were treating him. My friend is on the heavier side and they make fun of him for that as well. His hair is naturually dirty-blonde, but he bleached it blonde in the front and it’s longer there.  A lot of boys will come up to him and say “Why don’t you just keep it one color you fag?” and all he does is walk away. A lot of people call him gay for the way he walks, talks, and dresses but what is the point? At one time he told me “Sometimes I don’t feel safe in my own home because I’m attacked. I want to die..” It broke my heart.

On day, our school counselor came to talk to us about how to help out a friend if they are suicidal. He showed us a video of survivors who have tried to harm themselves and showed families of children who have killed themselves. He warned us that if your friends are being bullied and are telling you, “I rather die than go to school today” or “I want to die at times” that we needed to tell someone right away. Well, I started to freak out because everything I saw in the video was what my friend was acting like. I mentally broke down in class and was asked to leave. The counselor took  me down to his office and told me to spill out.

Our counselor has now been talking to my friend for 3 months for me and because another friend reported to our principal that my friend was being bullied. Our counselor sat me down and told me that the way I feel about it is normal and that my friend  is in pain because of the way people bully him. He asked us both to come down to his office during our elective classes and I brought along our other friend, who is also bullied and very much involved in my friend’s situation as well, we talked it out and things got better.

You see telling someone and talking to someone brings light into your life very quickly. My friend has been a fighter and has been dealing with this since he was in Kindergarten and yes, I’ve been with him every step of the way. If you see someone being bullied I advise you to tell someone even at the risk of them disliking you. When I had to report his bullying, I lost my best friend because her boyfriend was the main person bullying him. It hurt, I’ll admit, but at times I look back and say “I saved his life. He would have killed himself without this kind of help”, and I’ll be the first to tell you it didn’t just change his life, it changed mine. Whenever I see someone being picked on I walk right over to the bully and set them straight. I “kill them with kindness”. I take the victim in my group of friends and make them know I’m here and they have someone to rely on. Bullying is SERIOUS and it needs to stop. But we need everyone’s help. If anyone sees bullying happening you must report it not for your sake but for your teachers sake,your principals, and the victims. It makes their job and the victims life so much better. Believe me.

If one of your friends is being picked on, please do what Megan did and tell an adult. Sometimes it can be really hard for people to seek out help for themselves. They might be embarrassed or think that the problem will just go away if they ignore it. Be a friend and get help! School guidance counselors, teachers you trust, and your parents are all great people to talk to, and if they don’t do anything about it, go to the next adult! Thanks again for sharing this story, Megan!!

photo source

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