Big on the Inside

Spruce and Lucy 91113

Photo Credit: Lauren Ingwaldson

The first couple weeks of school our social worker and I visited classrooms to read a children’s book, Spruce and Lucy, written by teacher/author Todd Nesloney. The theme of the book is simple, yet profound; everyone has something to offer the world.  After sharing with dozens of classrooms I’m still struck by the wisdom shared by one of our youngest learners who said, “We can be big on the inside.”

Before reading the book we used Augmented Reality to share a personal message created just for Greenwood Elementary students. Using the Aurasma app and our iPads we linked to Todd Nesloney’s uplifting greeting via the “About the Author” picture in his book. The video greeting featured an inspiring message where individual students were encouraged to, “Own their genius.” Nesloney credited Angela Maiers for the mantra, and it aligns perfectly with our school’s anti-bullying plan.

Our school is taking a stand against bullying! The approach we will use is based on the Olweus Anti-bullying program. Parents can support our efforts by familiarizing themselves with the definition of bullying and supporting terms below.

Bullying: “Bullying is when someone repeatedly and on purpose says or does mean or hurtful things to another person who has a hard time defending himself or herself.” It’s important to note that a person can be a target in one setting and then demonstrate bullying behaviors in another setting.

Target: A person that is experiencing bullying (we do not use the term victim).

Bystander: A person that is nearby when bullying occurs. We are empowering students to take-a-stand instead of standing by.

Take-a-Stand: Students should use the three steps we taught them about during our classroom visits; “stop, walk and tell.”

  • Stop: A bystander or target can tell a person that is bullying to “stop.” Pointing out that a bullying behavior is “not cool” and “not funny” is another way to show support for somebody being targeted.
  • Walk: Students that are targeted should walk to the nearest adult for support. Bystanders may also accompany them for support and encouragement.
  • Tell: Explain the situation to an adult. In addition to parents and teachers, our school social worker and the principal can help. Talking about a problem is an effective way to begin addressing it, and we will join with our school community to take-a-stand against bullying.

After sharing the definition of bullying with students and reflecting on the book, students began to make connections. This was a powerful thing to experience, and I’ll share just a couple examples:

One student openly reflected: “I’m going to make an inference…I think that Mr. Oak was bullying because even though there was only one example of an unkind comment that hurt Spruce in the story, it’s quite possible that he had a history of bullying and could have been repeatedly hurting Spruce.”

In a different classroom a student approached me after the presentation and quietly shared, “I learned from the story that even though we are kids and small on the outside, we can be big on the inside.” I was SO PROUD of this student’s courage and thinking. My sense was that he would be a champion on the playground throughout his elementary years; a perfect example of what an empowered bystander can be.

It was humbling, inspiring and amazing all rolled into one. On behalf of our entire school, please know that we posses an unswerving commitment to supporting the growth of your child’s “whole person.” Creating a safe learning environment where your child’s unique talents and attributes are understood and celebrated is just part of this endeavor.

About Dr. Brad Gustafson

I am an elementary principal and author in Minnesota. You can connect with me at or on Twitter via @GustafsonBrad

Posted on September 15, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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