The burly student who gets into fist-fights and shoves kids into lockers may be the staple image of the school bully, but often bullies target their victims in much subtler ways – by name calling. Students have been emotionally scarred because of a few simple words that come out of a peer’s mouth,which is why groups are fighting to educate teachers and students on how to properly deal with name-calling during the 8th annual “No Name-Calling Week” from January 23rd to 27th.
No Name-Calling Week (NNCW), created by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and Simon & Schuster Children’s publishing, was inspired from the young-adult novel The Misfits by James Howe. The story tells how four best friends try to survive the jungle known as the seventh grade despite taunts based on their weight, height, intelligence, and sexual orientation/gender expression. They create a political party in the school known as the No-Name Party, and go onto win a school election, prompting the principal to create a No Name-Calling Day throughout the school.
According to GLSEN spokesperson Andy Marra, the week was designed to not just shed light on the bullying issue for one week, but to provide a catalyst to push the issue into the forefront of school crises.
“We wanted to use this opportunity to spark conversation about name-calling. We see this as a first response, especially with younger kids. Words do hurt and can potentially lead to other bullying problems.”
Along with ways to trigger bullying conversations, the NNCW site has numerous resources, ranging from elementary school to high school projects, that teach students about the serious effects name-calling can have in a fellow student’s life. The goal is not only to raise awareness among teachers and students, but also for both parties to take measures to combat or halt name-calling altogether in their particular schools.
“We are trying to provide schools materials to launch an effort to eliminate bullying in all communities and schools,” said Marra.
NNCW’s website has everything from lesson plans to art projects that students can work on to make them aware of the negative effects of name-calling. Educators can also order a formatted resource packet complete with a copy of The Misfits, an educational video, posters, different sets of curriculum material, and other anti-bullying paraphernalia.
Bullying can generate lower academic performance among students and even scare students into not attending school at all. NNCW is just one way that schools can address the consistent problem of bullying. Doing so does not just encourage students to accept each other, but it has the potential to heighten future student achievement. Events like NNCW remind schools that, although a simple verbal dig at a student may not look like much on the surface, constant abuse can tear a student apart emotionally.
“I believe that it’s vital that we educators can spot and positively police social interactions among young people whenever and wherever they occur on campus,” says Rebecca Mieliwocki, a 7th grade English teacher at Luther Burbank Middle School in Burbank and 2012 California Teacher of the Year.
The week also extends beyond the classroom as it is looking to get support staff, administrators, and parents involved in the process of keeping name-calling out of schools. Sponsors like Barnes & Noble have dubbed January No Name-Calling Month, displaying images of respect between students in their stores and advertising children’s literature that emphasizes the importance of respecting others. The NNCW website also provides ideas such as anti-bullying activities for parents to conduct at home while giving ideas on how to pitch the importance of NNCW to administrators.
“The greatest lesson any of us can teach,” Mieliwocki adds, “is how to understand, accept, and even celebrate one another, no matter how different someone seems.”