January 15, 2014

The Challenge: No Name-Calling Week and Beyond

Today's No Name-Calling Week message comes from Elisa Waters, Teacher and GSA Advisor at Jericho Middle School in NY.

Here’s the challenge: Make GLSEN’s No Name Calling Week the kick-off to systemic change in language within your school community.  Yes, No Name Calling Week is about drawing attention to the damage of negative, derogatory, and hurtful language, but it is also an   opportunity to challenge people to use language in a way the builds up each individual within a school community. 

No Name Calling Week provides a platform for open dialogue about appreciating diversity- ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, age, socioeconomic status, political affiliation, and even regional dialect.  Often, demeaning language stems from a lack of understanding and awareness about what makes people worth celebrating, and the impact of a slur related to a group to which you belong can last a lifetime. 

Consider your own life.  Transport yourself back to elementary school or middle school. Close your eyes and envision a time you were bullied, harassed, or teased.  Think hard about what was said or done.  Walk yourself through the moments you remember as you continue to reflect and use that as your platform for educating the faces that you greet on a daily basis.  It is amazing what stays in our memory bank and if we really want to make the power of No Name Calling Week last a month, a year, a lifetime, we must begin by doing our best to assure that our students don’t share the same negative moments many of us as adults can still recall. 

Look and listen to what is going on around your building and, depending upon the age of your students, ask them what they hear and see.  Everyone in every identity group at school is subject to being stereotyped and having judgments made against them based upon these stereotypes.  

In recognition and celebration of what No Name Calling Week is about and how it can have a lasting impact for you and your students, think about the minor and major moments that embrace the ideals of this nationwide movement.

Start with “upstanders” posters that encourage curiosity and conversation.  For example, consider the statement: “Don’t make fun of my religion; ask me about it.”  Invite students to share aspects of their layered identities and use their experiences as a springboard for greater dialogue. 

Have students create posters about daily positive behavior using upbeat language – encourage people to do what is right instead of discouraging them from doing what is wrong.  Consider something simple like, “What did I do today to make someone’s day better?” or “Did you say something nice to someone today?”

Embrace a monthly theme in your classroom or building and create events that support those themes such a community, respect, responsibility, etc. 

No Name Calling Week should be about enjoying and celebrating the challenge of changing memories and making a lifelong difference for our lifelong learners.


Robert McGarry

About Robert McGarry

Senior Director of Education and Youth Programs

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