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Sara’s Story

By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on October 15, 2014

Sara’s Story

13 year-old pop-opera singer Sara Stevensknows all too well what it feels like to be bullied for being “different”. Instead of being defeated by the teasing and harsh words she found solace and a new-found confidence through singing.

While she is only 13, some of Sara’s accomplishments include performing in La Boheme with the Atlanta Opera; singing the National anthem at the New York Giants vs. New England Patriots game; and gracing the legendary stage at Carnegie Hall. She's now working on her album with famed producer Paul Schwartzof Phantom of the Opera on Broadway.

This is her story:

 

My name is Sara Stevens. I'm 13 years old and I'm a singer. Have you ever been picked on, called a mean name or just simply left out and ignored? This is something kids deal with every day.

I understand. I was bullied too.

I was told that I was too tall, that I like to draw too much, and that I like to sing too much. Some kids even said I was fat. That hurt, but it never stopped me from being myself.

I remember one night I couldn't sleep and cried because I was so worried about going to school in the morning.

My mom taught me to be strong and I believe that tough times can make you stronger. When something is difficult, you can develop a confidence in yourself that you never knew you had.

My grandparents have also been very supportive of me following my dream, and they have done a lot to make it possible for me to do just that. My grandmother has told me many times to never try to be like anyone else, but to just be myself. My granddad reminds me to keep going when things don't go exactly the way I want. He tells me to keep working at what I am trying to accomplish.

There are other people who have been there for me. My vocal coach Amy Zorn has taught me so much about singing, and to never be afraid to show my feelings to the audience. And my producer Paul Schwartz, who is the first to congratulate me when a performance or recording has gone well, is also the first to remind me to continue working hard.

I also met a man named John Roberts. He's a music producer in Atlanta. Together, he and I wrote a song called Dance In This Dreamwhich was inspired by what I had gone through.

All these encouraging words from the people in my life make me feel good and happy. The best advice I can give to anyone out there struggling is believe in yourself never back down. Always stand up and know that your dream is waiting for you.   

I hope with all my heart that this song will touch many lives. It has a powerful message about looking for the positive and overcoming the negative. 

The most important thing a person can do is to be him or herself. Don't let anything hold you back, take your chance, find your dream and everything is possible! 

 

Listen to “Dance In This Dream” here.

8 No-Prep Methods to Reduce Classroom Bullying: By Beth Morrow

By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on October 13, 2014

With the continual crush of standards and tests in our classrooms, it’s tempting to bypass the more creative and less structured social activities that don’t end up on a bubble sheet.

The irony is that those feel-good moments are the only opportunity many students have to get to know each other in a socially positive environment as people, not competitors. Bullying is often the result of one person seeking power or attention--or both--from someone lacking confidence in their own social self-worth. The danger is that in eliminating deliberate social skill-building activities, students do not have exposure to or experience in building their own self-worth.  By cutting out these confidence-building moments, it’s as though we are expecting fewer bullying behaviors by eliminating the very tools that can help improve the situation.

We frequently claim we need more time to improve classroom climate but more time is not a prerequisite. Here are eight no/low-prep ways to infuse our classrooms with the behaviors we most want to see from our students.

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Enhancing SEL Learning at P169M

By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on January 21, 2014

Our series of blog posts focused on social-emotional learning (SEL) continues. In this post, we introduce you to P169M, a District 75 school using SEL as a common language to enrich individual and group instruction needs.

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Promoting Social-Emotional Awareness at Mickey Mantle School

By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on January 15, 2014

Developing a positive school climate is a partnership effort between the entire school community of educators, administrators, mental health professionals, students, and parents. Schools and districts across the nation are speaking to this effort in a number of innovate ways. In this post, we introduce you to Mickey Mantle School, a District 75 school developing a common language supportive of academic, social and emotional needs. Read on for the first of a series of blogs highlighting schools promoting high levels of social-emotional awareness and understanding.

By: Barry Daub, Principal, P811M-The Mickey Mantle School, New York, NY

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Adult Support from a Youth Perspective

By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on October 07, 2013

By Yena Kwak

Yena Kwak is currently a 10th grader at Tenafly High School. Her story, From Middle School Student to Bully Prevention Advocate, appeared
in the June 2013 issue of School Climate Matters. The piece featured her perspective of the bullying climate of her then school, Tenafly Middle School, and her desire to engage and encourage students to become active upstanders. Here she describes her personal experience as a student and as a representative at NSCC’s Summer Institute. Read on for ways educators across the nation can support youth facing similar struggles.

 

Learning and Growing

School is where students take their first baby steps into society. This is where they begin to learn the essential social and emotional skills such as communication, cooperation, empathy and reflection. To learn these effectively, students need an environment where they feel accepted and safe. Problems such as bullying can interfere with this-students may be afraid, anxious and even terrified of their peers because they don’t know when and if they will be bullied. Bullying is both psychological and physical, where you feel nervous and also suspicious of the intentions of your peers. This
trauma distracts students from a successful learning experience. Adding to this, victims seclude themselves from others in the same school society, which sometimes leads to being ignored or facing rumors and name-calling. Gradually, victims become alienated in the school. To them, their school climate couldn’t be any worse.

 

Perfect Solutions Don’t Exist

Bullying, in my opinion, has no perfect solution. Many schools emphasize talking to adults when bullied, but I think this keeps the bully victim quiet. From around the age of ten and up, students become embarrassed and unwilling to talk to adults. They think they are mature enough to solve bullying problems by themselves and that time will solve everything. Also, and this is from my own experience, they’re afraid of exclusion. When I was bullied in my previous school, I did consider consulting the school counselor, but I decided against it because I was scared. I thought if I “tattled” on my so-called friends, I would become completely friendless and excluded. I never thought about making new friends because everyone seemed to be involved in
separate cliques. I definitely knew it would be difficult to squeeze into a new group of friends. So, I maintained my silence and tried to ignore the bullying. I had little success with this. When I was in the 6th grade, I was involved in a group called “peer leaders” where students helped other students overcome bullying. I found it easier to help others than to help myself. Even after becoming a satisfactory peer leader, I couldn’t solve my own issue. The problem was the peer leader program educated students to help others but it didn’t teach the peer leaders how to deal with bullying if it happened to them.

 

What Can You Do?

Adults in my school did the best they could to support students. Students sometimes just don’t know what they need or, if they do know, they don’t know how to communicate the feeling. i believe the best way the adults can help bullied students is to be mindful of things going on around the school, especially in the cafeteria. From my experiences, I would say the first step is breaking the mindset of having separate, private cliques. This is especially a problem among girls. A student involved in a clique may make friends with other students but once that student is surrounded by her clique, she becomes much more comfortable communicating their personal problems.

If adults help students break this mindset, new friendships can be formed in the more receptive school society. Another way to help the students is to eliminate the thought that school supervisors exist only to punish bad behavior without wanting to know more about what happened and why it happened. If staff members connect with students outside the classroom in a different situation such as playing a sports game or being available after school to talk, student perspective changes and students become more open to communicate their personal problems.

In addition to breaking student opinion, students need to know how hard their teachers are working to improve the school climates. This summer, I attended NSCC’s Summer Institute. From a student point of view, I was extremely touched by the determination of the school leaders to improve their school climates and address bullying problems in their communities. I was very grateful for the invitation and felt included as a student representative.
Sometimes students need to know that staff are as concerned (if not more) about the problems students are facing. This is something important I learned from the Summer Institute. If I could, I would share with students one thing: I would tell them that their school leaders are striving very hard to achieve the goal of creating the best school climates possible.

 

Read more about schools in action and upstander efforts by connecting to our School Climate Matters newsletter.

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