Tolerance, acceptance and understanding are preached every day at the James A. Dever School. But recently, those traits were center stage as the elementary school took part in national No Name Calling Week from Jan. 28-Feb. 1.
“Our goal is to raise awareness regarding tolerance, diversity and bully prevention,” said Principal Darren Gruen, “and to continue to give children the tools that they need to stand up when they see something happen that’s not right.”
Each day, there was a different characteristic for students to learn about, including responsibility, respect, citizenship, trustworthiness and fairness. There were also themes throughout the week including Dress like a Rock Star Day, Hippie Day and Mismatch Day. Jersey Day reminded students to be a good sport, and when the message was about citizenship, the children were asked to wear the school’s colors.
Gruen said that the goal is to create a school climate where students treat each other with respect all the time. No Name Calling Week just enhanced the school’s long-standing character education program, he explained.
Throughout the week, school social worker Yashmira Devine visited classrooms and talked to students about how to stop bullying. She explained what bystanders can do when they see one student bullying another one.
“If it’s allowed to happen, and nobody does anything about it, that’s when it’s allowed to grow,” Gruen said.
In the school lobby, students contributed to a banner that read “No two snowflakes are alike,” to celebrate the differences of children. Every student got a paper snowflake, and wrote their name and one trait that makes them unique on it. By the end of the week, every child in the school was represented on the banner.
“Typically, children get bullied over the fact that they’re different,” Gruen said, adding that No Name Calling Week was a way to teach students that being different is OK. “We celebrate that, rather than make fun of it.”
Devine said that school is a place where children should feel comfortable being themselves. “What I envision is that the children become empowered by their uniqueness,” she said.