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The ABC’s of Character Education

New Anti-Bullying Program at Stewart Elementary

Elementary school guidance counselor Denise Schrock made her way through the Stewart School cafeteria, introducing students to each other as they sat at lunch tables. Some students eagerly made small talk with their new acquaintances, while others quietly nibbled their chicken nuggets.

This scene did not play out on the first day of school, but rather on a Thursday in January.  It was the first “Mix It Up Lunch,” where cafeteria workers randomly assigned students to tables as they enter the cafeteria. These special lunches were designed by Ms. Schrock and Principal Greg Egnor as a character-building exercise for the school’s Anti-Bullying Campaign, or ABC.

Mr. Egnor and Mrs. Schrock addressed the students as they took their new seats. “We want you to sit with people you normally don’t sit with, talk to people you might not normally talk to,” Egnor said. Ms. Schrock says they plan to hold the lunches at least once a month, to encourage students to step out of their comfort zones and make new friends. The fourth and fifth grade students at Stewart are the prime age for character education, especially with plenty of new faces in the classrooms as a result of this year’s elementary restructuring. “The lunches will give students the opportunity to get to know the kids from ‘the other school,’” Ms. Schrock says.

It’s also a chance to put into practice some of the ABC lessons learned in the classroom. Using the book “What Do You Stand For? For Kids: A Guide to Building Character” by Barbara A. Lewis as a resource, classroom teachers will share true stories about kids who had an important experience with each trait, then lead discussions and activities to reinforce the trait. The traits include respect, friendship, self-discipline and honesty, cooperation, acceptance, fairness and empathy.
“We didn’t want to de-sensitize students by focusing on too much on the anti-bullying aspect,” Mr. Egnor says. “We wanted to focus instead on the traits that would be consistent with anti-bullying. The main goal of the ABC is to empower students to take a stand against bullying, learn how to report it, and focus on personal traits that are opposite of bullying.”

Stewart Elementary kicked-off the ABC program this fall with a video that depicted different types of bullying: violence, verbal harassment, spreading false rumors, not letting someone be part of the group, and text messaging unkind messages on a cell phone or over the Internet.

Teachers stopped the video after each scenario, and led discussions with the students about the behavior they just witnessed. “The students were so engaged in the conversations about the video,” says fifth grade teacher Kelly Giordano. “It was nice to see them express their concern about the kids who were bullied.”

Parents and students can report concerns and incidents anonymously online at www.burrell.k12.pa.us and click Anonymous School Safety Tip Line.

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