Thanks to the Pacer Center, October has been declared Bullying Prevention Month.

Since I work mainly with Pre-K through elementary schools, I would respectfully like to rename it “Leadership is the Anti-Bully” Month.  At these ages,  we should remove the labels of “bully,” “victim or target” and teach children skills.  Learning how to respect themselves and others will benefit them through middle and high school and the rest of their lives.

There are many great social emotional learning programs that have been introduced into schools over the years, including CASEL, The Leader In Me program, National School Climate Center (NSCC) and Yale’s Ruler Program, among many others.

Some schools embrace the idea that teaching leadership and social emotional learning is an important part of the student’s education while others don’t make it as much of a priority.  But the schools that do embrace it do better academically.  Makes sense.  The safer and happier a child feels, the better they perform.

When Kathryn Otoshi, author of the award-winning book, One, and I created One Can Count, we didn’t know what to call it.  We hesitated to call it a program or initiative. Too complicated.  Would people understand if we simply called it a tool?

We wanted to remove any barriers that would make teaching leadership challenging.  The truth is that schools DO have too much to do.  There IS too much on their plate.  Each teacher and staff member can’t be asked to be an expert in EVERYTHING.

I enthusiastically support schools who have invested time and money into high-quality school-wide programs that positively impact school climate but not all schools can or have. We wanted to at least provide something simple, inexpensive and that school staff could embrace and make their own.  We wanted to inspire schools to give students a chance to step up in very real ways. Practicing leadership includes simple concepts such as older students mentoring younger children.  It also includes identifying jobs that students can do as part of the regular school day or even the special occasion days. In other words, any opportunity that doesn’t compete but enhances classroom time.

We also wanted One Can Count to be inclusive.  We encourage any school to use it in conjunction with any other initiative or program.  Teachers and counselors need tools.

I want to thank the 30 schools on Staten Island who used One Can Count last year thanks to Senator Andrew Lanza, who sponsored the workshop at St. John’s University, as well as materials and multiple copies of the One and Zero books for each school.  Principals, teachers, parent coordinators, and counselors got inspired and had fun.  The result?  Kids got inspired and had fun, too.

This is a month of awareness but the benefits of the efforts on the part of schools, organizations and parents will last a lifetime.

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