BRISTOL - ‚ÄúHappy Brave Day!‚ÄĚ Judy Michaud, library media specialist, said as she welcomed the kindergartners of West Bristol K-8 School to the school library Monday afternoon.
Michaud and other staff members wore purple T-shirts with the words ‚ÄúBold, Respect, Aware, Vigilant, Empathy‚ÄĚ printed in white on the back, spelling out B-R-A-V-E.
It was part of a first-ever, day-long program of assemblies to get the students to talk about standing up to bullies, in ways that were tailored to each grade level.
Michaud said she came up with the idea for Brave Day after hearing the Sara Bareilles song ‚ÄúBrave‚ÄĚ on her car radio.
The song‚Äôs chorus goes ‚ÄúSay what you wanna say/ And let the words fall out,/ Honestly I wanna see you be brave.‚ÄĚ
She was also inspired by the Sandy Hook Promise Initiative, an organization started by the families devastated by the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School to promote inclusion and acceptance among students. Sandy Hook Promise‚Äôs ‚ÄúStart With Hello‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúSay Something‚ÄĚ programs, which have been presented at West Bristol, teach children of different ages ways to reach out and get to know one another better.
‚ÄúWe started Brave Day because we felt we needed kids to learn how to have a voice,‚ÄĚ Principal Michelle LeVasseur explained. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs get the message out about what does it mean to be brave, to stand up for yourself and others.‚ÄĚ
It‚Äôs hard for some of them to speak up because they always worry about crossing a line, LeVasseur said. ‚ÄúThey say ‚ÄėI don‚Äôt want to be a tattler, I don‚Äôt want to be a snitch.‚Äô‚ÄĚ
So when the kindergartners took their seats in the library, Michaud told them ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs OK to be afraid, because standing up is a hard thing to do, but we‚Äôre going to talk about being brave.‚ÄĚ
She discussed with them in simple terms the story of Ruby Bridges, who at age six was one of the first African American children to go to a white school in New Orleans in 1960. Ruby was bullied but even though she was sad she knew she was a good person, and she didn‚Äôt try to be mean back or let them make her feel bad about herself, Michaud explained.
She showed the students a short video with the message ‚ÄúThere‚Äôs a champion in every kid,‚ÄĚ produced by The Ned Show, an organization that promotes academic achievement through character development.
The video went over a few tricks that Ned, the main character, could use to ‚Äústop the meanness right in its tracks.‚ÄĚ These were being a buddy to someone targeted by a bully, interrupting bullying to give the target a chance to walk away, speaking out to tell the bully to stop and to draw others‚Äô attention to the situation, and telling a trusted adult about the bullying.
‚ÄúThis is not tattling because he is not trying to get someone in trouble, he wants to keep someone safe. It takes courage and hard work to be an ‚Äėupstander‚Äô‚ÄĚ as opposed to a bystander, the video said.
Michaud then encouraged the students to come up, look into a small ‚Äúmagic mirror,‚ÄĚ and say ‚ÄúI like myself because‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ The young ones came up with reasons like ‚ÄúI‚Äôm nice,‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúI‚Äôm smart,‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúI‚Äôm funny,‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúI‚Äôm nice to my sister even though she takes my toys,‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúmy mom thinks I‚Äôm spectacular.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúDon‚Äôt let people say mean things to you,‚ÄĚ she told them. ‚ÄúDon‚Äôt let the bully try to make you feel like you‚Äôre not special or important. You could even go one better and try to make friends with the bully. I know that‚Äôs hard but you know he might not have any friends.‚ÄĚ
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.