Being a Courageous Bystander in the Lower School

By Michael Simpson, Head of Lower School

Character development is ongoing and constant in our lower school. As you know, academics are what we do, but we are working to help children develop interpersonal skills and self management skills too. Our character development program includes explicitly discussing our core principles of respect, honor, and compassion as well as continuously weaving them into our curriculum and conversations. On late start days fourth graders lead assemblies to introduce character topics such as the bug chart, the core principles, and as we did at our most recent late start day assembly, bullying.

This year’s bullying assembly was quite clever. The premise was a tour through a “Bullying Wax Museum.” After an introduction by me, the fourth graders acted the parts of tour guide, visitors, and wax figures. First, the guide defined bullying for the guests so they could understand what bullying really is: repeated mean behavior, on purpose. Then wax figures animated their different roles:

Physical bully
Verbal bully
Emotional bully
Cyber bully
Courageous bystander

The actors then explained what you should do if you see bullying, referring to the student-created posters and the STARS acronym visible all around our school:

Seek allies
Target needs your help
Assertively communicate
Respect everyone
Stand up to the bully but never bully back

The actors really enjoyed being wax figures, and the guide ended the assembly with a passionate charge to all Lower School students to be courageous bystanders.

I believe they took her message to heart. At every Monday morning assembly we recognize students who have demonstrated one of our core principles or teamwork. At this past Monday morning’s assembly, the following stories were read:

I would like to recognize [K] for being a team player. This is what happened: We were making a game in class and someone was not being nice to [L] and [K] helped [L] handle the problem. You are amazing, [K]!

I would like to recognize [P] for showing respect. This is what happened: Someone was saying my lunch looked bad at lunch, and [P] stood up for me! Saying “Guys, please don’t make fun of my friend’s lunch it’s not nice and if this continues a teacher will have to get involved.” And the people who were being mean stopped. Thanks [P] you rock!

While perhaps these were not instances that met the criteria of bullying, they were times when a courageous bystander’s voice was needed and certainly appreciated. This kind of “standing up” is a treasure to our community.

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