Sunday, May 11, 2014

Bye Bye Bystander, Hello Hero

By Michele Corbat

Sometimes scratch that, many times this past school year I have been astounded by the way my school community has come together to support one another and show kindness.  We've had tragedies that have forever changed us, such as the death of  beloved Dieck Elementary teacher, Mr. Christopher Carney and the suicide of adored high school senior and varsity football quarterback, Brendon Fitch.  Our teachers, administrators, students, parents, and the entire community pulled together for the families of these individuals (Chris's wife is also a teacher at Dieck Elementary where his two children are students and Brendon's mom, uncle and aunt are all teachers at Swartz Creek Schools where his cousins also attend school).  On Saturday, May 10th, students and staff from Swartz Creek Middle School, joined together, once again, to show kindness.  Thanks to the work of our SCMS Diversity Club, which is lead by teacher, Tony Suchanek,  the first ever "Bye Bye Bystander, Hello Hero" event was held on Saturday, May 10.

Description of the event on our district website

A Little Background

On November 4 & 5, 2013, several hundred educators, students and community members gathered for the first ever The Hero Roundtable at Swartz Creek High School. This is a one-of-a-kind multi-disciplinary conference on heroism and was organized by Adam Hartley and Matt Langdon.  The opposite of a hero is not a villain; it's a bystander. Every community in the world, big or small, can use more heroes. Those who attended, learned how to stop being bystanders and start becoming heroes.

I attended the conference with a small group of middle school students and a few other teachers.  We were moved by stories shared by Jeremiah Anthony, a high school kid from Iowa City, Iowa who created the Twitter account Westhighbros to take a stand against bullying.  The account tweets sincere compliments to students and staff.  And stories from author, Dave Rendall, who told us, "What makes us weak, makes us strong and what makes us weird, makes us wonderful."  He encouraged us to embrace our uniqueness by flaunting our weakness.  We also heard from a 15 year old boy from Michigan, Ethan King, who started a non-profit charity to donate soccer balls to under-privileged children around the world when he was only 12!  Ethan told us, "It doesn't matter how old or how young you are, you can make a difference."

After this inspiring event, the students, teachers and I met a few times to plan how we could begin taking action in our school.  Many ideas were shared and initiatives were beginning to happen in small ways in our school. Paper buckets were posted on all staff members' doors or work spaces. Announcements were made to fill the buckets with post-it notes with compliments or uplifting messages.  Lockers were decorated with uplifting notes and compliments as well.  Students and staff were encouraged to take the Ten Day Challenge.

The Ten Day Challenge

Thanks to my colleague, Tony Suchanek, the momentum continued.  Tony is a 6th grade teacher in our school who started and leads our Diversity Club.  He took the ideas from The Hero Roundtable Conference to this club and we had a movement!

Fast Forward To This Weekend

The Diversity Club organized an event to make an even bigger impact. They organized the first annual, "Bye Bye Bystander, Hello Hero Celebration".  I attended this celebration on Saturday.  As participants arrived, they signed in to the guest book and noted the time.  When we left, we signed out and noted the time. These logs will be used to determine how many people were involved as well as how many total minutes people stood up against bullying.  There were problem-solving games like untangling a human knot and uplifting games like a compliment web.  Students sang and danced.  Three of our 8th grade students rocked the house as their band played rock classics from the 80's.

Most moving for all though, were the stories shared during open mic time.  Some shared stories about feeling worthless because of how others had picked on them to the point that they wondered if life was worth living.  Others shared stories of knowing you are different and celebrating those differences anyways.  A parent took the mic and explained to students that our attitude is not a feeling, rather a choice.  He told us that we can choose kindness.  In between stories, videos were shown about people who took action as heroes like the story of the Olivet Middle School Football team who planned to make a classmates day, to make his week, to make him happy.

Inspirational messages were also shared from across the world from people like Matt Langdon, Jeremiah Anthony and Ethan King.  They encouraged the students to keep standing and doing the right thing.

Now What?

I wasn't the only one impacted by this event.  A ripple of kindness is spreading.  I know this because three students have started an Instagram account that they call SCMS_Hero.


This is one example of how the event made an impact on those who attended.  I wonder how many other people, both students and adults, left the event thinking, "I will not stand by, I will STAND UP when I see someone in need."   I am excited to see what the future holds for my community because I know that this is not the end.  It is the beginning.  The beginning of a movement where people look out for each other.  Where people look at one another and say, "I see you and I got your back!"

Almost 1,000 Swartz Creek Middle School students and staff wearing their #SCMShero T shirts

Want To Learn More?

Tony Suchanek will bring students from our Diversity Club to share on July 29, in Swartz Creek, Michigan at the COLchat To Action Conference.  Come meet these heroes in person and learn how you can start a movement in your school!