[VIDEO] 8th Graders Talk Bullying With 6th Graders
The idea behind this Talk Works program is to have the older kids model the behavior we want to see.
The student with the funny accent, or obsessive love of Star Wars, or just the awkward demeanor – the easy target for kids looking to appear cool – those kids were all there Thursday morning for the culminating activity in the TalkWorks presentation for sixth graders at Cole Middle School.
They weren't alone, of course. The usual suspects were there too – the popular girls, the cool boys, the athletic kids. But they were all actors, eighth graders there to help sixth graders talk about bullying and to show that the cool way doesn't have to be cruel.
"We have been working with the East Greenwich sixth graders since third grade –
doing plays, role plays, interactive role play," said TalkWorks executive director Chris Caron.
This is a pilot program working with the sixth graders and also working with the eighth graders to see if they can become mentors or leaders. The TalkWorks team went into sixth grade classes and talked to them about where bullying happens during the school day. Then, with the sixth graders, they developed skits looking at those scenarios.
The idea behind the program, Caron said, is "if they’re a victim, to get them to stand up for themselves. If they’re a bully, we believe they can change. And if they’re a bystander we’d like them to become an upstander."
One of the TalkWorks actors said the most interesting aspect of working with the eighth graders was how some of them were willing to take on completely different roles for the skits.
"I had a boy who self-describing himself as confident and popular playing someone that everyone else was teasing and making fun of," she said. "He was rather big physically but we had him bullied by smaller kids. I think it was really interesting for him to imagine what it was like to not be large and confident and popular … what are you supposed to do then?"
Caron said Cole was already off to a good start, noting the two simple words Principal Alexis Meyer offers every morning at the end of announcements: "Be kind."