Bullying Knows No Borders1A

Bullying Has No Borders. Neither Does The Heart!

“Be Nice” our moms said to us.  And, it was usually followed by “…to your little sister or brother.” Or she simply said, “play nice with the other kids” before we went out the door. And, it was implied when she said, “How many times have I told you, don’t pull the dog’s tail!”

While we would all like “be nice” to equal “be kind” experiences in our children’s lives, as parents and educators we know better. We also know today it is very important for us to say and do more.  Nothing has brought the need for the Be Nice=Be Kind message home louder than cyber-bullying and the tragic loss of young lives we’ve witnessed in the last few years.

Bullying prevention is everyone’s job (adults and kids) and that is why tomorrow’s #whatisschool chat is so important. As my friend Kevin Epling, who became an activist and bullying prevention hero because of the tragic loss of his son Matt to bullycide, said to me after I wrote to him about tomorrow’s #whatisschool Twitter chat:

“Bullying has gone from the one thing everyone thought they knew everything about, to the one they actually knew nothing about, and technology has complicated that 1,000 fold. The tremendous long term ignorance of the devastation bullying causes has spread from school to school, town to town, state to state and across vast oceans to create a global web of pain for our youth. It’s not that we CAN do better…it’s that Together we MUST do better for our students.”

Here in North America, school is out or almost out for most kids. So it’s a good time for this conversation, and reflections about it, to take place.  But wherever you live, cyber-bullying, teasing, pushing, shoving – indeed any act that diminishes children’s sense of self-worth and belief in themselves – is where we need to talk about and take action against bullying. This is what Kevin has told thousands of kids, teachers and parents. It is a global conversation that we should embrace and promote. It will lead to teaching practices that make a difference in the lives of ALL children – beginning at an early age.

At CritterKin We Start With the Heart  

Jena Ball created the CritterKin series of books because she believes that if you start with the heart kindness will follow. It’s inherent in her words: Critters [Animals] are Kin [Family] by which she means all of us are family! Kindness is at the heart of her characters and stories, and the reason they connect in a powerful way with children and their real-world experiences.

Bullying is the central challenge addressed in the third CritterKin book, Lead With Your Heart. The maincharacters are Lance (a misunderstood pit bull), and his special friend Reny, who must overcome her fears to help Lance. The power of the story and the characters are what have made this book the centerpiece of CritterKin’s Quilting for Kindness project and an official selection of PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center. Led by Executive Director Julie Hertzog, a national recognized leader on bullying prevention, it is an organization whose support we deeply appreciate.

CritterKin “Be Kind” projects have been rich and diverse. Beginning with a school-wide, “Start with Your Heart” project in Texas, and moving on to a “Kindness Garden” in Illinois, a “Quilting for Kindness” project in Nebraska (where quilts became part of a museum exhibition), a newspaper and play in Iowa, a mural in New York, and now to a district-wide launch of the “Quilting for Kindness” program in the Valley View School District this summer, CritterKin is making kindness real for thousands of kids..

Bullying Has No Borders. Neither does the Heart!

“It is critically important to spread the message about bullying prevention globally,” Ross Ellis Founder and CEO of STOMP Out Bullying, said to me when I wrote to her about the #whatisschool chat. “Bullying doesn’t take place just in the U.S. It happens all over the world,” said Ross, who pioneered global connections on this issue. “By spreading the message, it’s a great way to share best practices and make bullying prevention a top priority across the globe.”

It’s no secret that a global crisis demands a global response. The #whatisschool chat is an important example of how we as educators can make a difference when we connect globally. Let’s lead with our hearts!