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Opstad elementary students share wisdom in frank talks about bullies
All of Opstad Elementary School got involved when trouble came around last fall. The whole school participated in the anti-bullying assembly, “Trouble in Fairytalezania,” by Taproot Theatre, watching the play, laughing at the jokes, summoning a fairy godmother on cue, and taking home the message.
Principal Amy Wright, has worked with Taproot Theatre in the past, and knew to expect a positive student response from their show.
She was still pleasantly surprised when a group of fourth graders came to her about what they could do to help. They not only got the message, she saw, they also wanted to be a part of it.
“They want to have an ally patrol!” Wright said.
“We basically walk around the playground and make sure that everyone gets along and there’s no bullying at recess,” explained Emma Schuerman, one of the nine fourth-graders who talked to Wright about it.
“You could just play, and if you see something, you can call your friends over and say ‘Someone’s getting bullied, let’s go save them!’” added Mia Spaziano, who first suggested the ally patrol.
It’s a student-led initiative to keep the environment throughout the school both safe and nice. It’s also proactive, since Opstad doesn’t have much of a problem with bullying.
“In this school, it’s usually not fighting,” said James Nye, “but sometimes it will just be words—calling names, or picking on.”
The R Words
Words, it turns out, are one of those tools. As hurtful as they can be when a bully uses them, words are even more helpful for victims. These are, of course, the words children use when they “talk to a trusted adult” as Wright advises, but there are also three special words, maybe even magical words, that all kids can use.
“Recognize, refuse, and report,” the Opstad fourth graders chanted together.
“Recognize that someone’s being bullied,” said Nye.
“Refuse is saying ‘I’m not going to do this any more, just don’t want to do it,’” said Anna Simmons.
“And Report is going and telling the nearest adult that you trust, about what’s going on.” added Siena McDowell.
“But make sure it’s an actual adult that you tell,” added Nye, “not like a 14-year-old…”
The group erupts in giggles at that, obviously an inside joke from Fairytalezania, and start listing their favorite parts of the show. “Trouble” is about a girl on a quest to stop a bullying, big, bad wolf and return the magic—and the happy endings—to the land. She picks up some allies along the way, and there is plenty of comedy in the mix.
“I’m always going to remember the three little hogs!” one of the students said.
“The cats flying up in the air!” added another.
“Oh, the lake of fudge! Don’t eat the fudge or you’ll have to stay there!”
“The Big Bad Wolf was a girl! And she wasn’t really big or bad, or even a wolf. She was a puppet!”
The Big Bad Wolf actually “wanted a story of her own instead of being the bad character in the stories,” explained Schuerman. “she wanted to be the good guy, because she actually was bullied when she was little.”
The serious note came back in a hurry when the students were asked if they could, in fact, recognize, refuse and report.
“Yes, but I know I’d be nervous!” said Schuerman, after some thought.
Tyler Barber, though, had the answer, for all of them.
“The way that they stand up to them in the play are allies,” he said. “People with you to help you stand up to the bullies.”
Opstad students watch Taproot Theatre’s ‘Trouble in Fairytalezania” and learn what to do about bullies.