A loving couple to send the right messages today! Love, respect, compassion, understanding, and support.
Many years ago, I began my career in education as a teaching assistant. I genuinely love all of the children I served and have a strong passion for making each day better than before. It did not take long after encouragement from others; I made my way back to school to gain my teaching degree and then my masters to become an administrator.
The needs of the children I served were always my priority. Seeing early in my career the issue of bullying, I was allowed to develop approaches to address these social-emotional needs early. I thank my principal Susan Riggle for believing in a teaching assistant to bring programming to her school.
Shining Stars was born and with the assistance of our social workers we expanded. This is when I first met my dear friend Dr. Dorothy Espelage a worldwide known expert on bullying. The assistance she provided helped to improve our student’s needs and how they responded.
My career moved me to a position as Assistant Principal of the middle school. I had always been in elementary, so people did not think my elementary style would work. Well, children are children was my response.
So when I asked for help in constructing two large giraffes named Stan and Bea in our main hallway, people began to wonder. But, there was a significant reason for this project and the details would soon be disclosed.
“Welcome, everyone! Many of you I know from the elementary and now we are here in the middle school together! Did you love those awesome giraffes as you came in? The one on the left is Stan and the one on the right is Bea. They are part of the giraffe project to remind us of the importance we each play in our school, family and community. See Stan is all about standing tall and taking risks when it means sticking up for what is right! He knows standing by and letting someone or a group say or do something wrong is not right. He will stick his neck out for what is right and get help. Bea is all about being proud. She takes pride in how her school, household, community looks. When someone throws trash on the floor or ground she does her part in picking it up. Always remind others to keep our places clean as it is a reflection on us. But sometimes accidents happen, so when we see it, pick it up, we become part of the solution, not the problem.”
“Do you know why giraffes have such a long neck? Well, it is because one day, a father went to the top of the hill to keep an eye out for danger while the families grazed. He kept stretching, stretching, and stretching so he could see to warn the others. He was Stan’s great, great, great grandfather. This is where the saying, stick your neck out comes from!”
My purpose in telling this story is in setting up how you can begin a fun non-threatening way to talk about service-learning, bullying awareness, expectations and a culture of pride and respect. I have always had two rules, a consistent phrase I use and a signal to utilize to begin to speak no matter how big the crowd without raising my voice. I discuss all of this more in my book I hope to have out in the future.
How did the giraffe project go? We did well with it in our middle school. We raised our academic scores, decreased our amount of behavior issues and identified additional areas to support children.
Learn more about creating a giraffe project in your school and community at the link below. Many materials are free. If you need information on bullying, please feel free to connect with Dr. Dorothy Espelage on Twitter @DrDotEspelage