Words can hurt. All of us have been called a name at some point in our lives that hurts our feelings. It might have made us feel really bad about ourselves. It might have made us feel really lonely.
Worst of all, it might have made us feel unsafe.
Name-calling is unacceptable and all too common. People like to think it is just “harmless teasing,” but the truth is that calling people names is wrong, and it can have a lasting negative effect.
Thankfully, now we can do something about it!
January 22-26, 2007, is National No Name-Calling Week, a time when we can stand up to name-calling and really make a difference in the effort to make schools and communities safe places for everyone.
No Name-Calling Week is an annual week of educational activities aimed at ending name-calling of all kinds and providing schools with the tools to end bullying in their communities.
The week was inspired by a book called The Misfits by James Howe, a popular youth fiction author who also wrote Bunnicula: A Rabbit Tale of Mystery, Bunnicula Strikes Again!, and the Pinky and Rex series. The Misfits tells the story of four best friends trying to survive the seventh grade in the face of all too frequent taunts based on their weight, height, intelligence, and sexual orientation/gender expression.
Motivated by the unfairness they see around them, the “Gang of Five” (as they are known) creates a new political party during student council elections and runs on a platform aimed at wiping out name-calling of all kinds. Though they lose the election, they win the support of the school’s principal for their cause and their idea for a “No Name-Calling Day” at school.
Inspired by this simple and powerful idea, the week was created by GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) and Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing with the help of nearly fifty national partnering organizations. Together, they organized the first No Name-Calling Week in schools across the nation during the week of March 1-5, 2004.
Now in its fourth year, the project seeks to focus national attention on the problem of name-calling in schools.
“We fell in love with the idea of an actual No Name-Calling Week the moment we read the book,” said GLSEN Founder and Executive Director Kevin Jennings. “I remember what it was like to be teased as a child, as do most adults. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Together, we can stop name-calling. When students stand up and say, ‘That’s not cool,’ it really does make a difference.”
One exciting element of No Name-Calling Week is the Creative Expression Contest. The contest is an opportunity for students to submit essays, poetry, music, original artwork, or other pieces that represent their experiences and feelings about name-calling. Students also express their ideas for putting a stop to verbal bullying in their schools and communities.
The contest takes place every year leading up to No Name-Calling Week. Entries are collected in December, and winners are selected and announced in January, prior to No Name-Calling Week. You can view winners from this year’s contest, as well as years past, at http://www.nonamecallingweek.org.
Thousands of students, from almost every state in the country, have participated in the contest. Last year, thirty-four students won prizes. Last year’s overall winner even got to meet James Howe at a ceremony at his school.
“The great thing about No Name-Calling Week is that students are the ones who deliver the message that name-calling is wrong,” said GLSEN Education Director Brooke Wiese. “The creativity and passion we see from students are amazing and leave us hopeful that someday name-calling will be a thing of the past in our schools.”
Here are ten simple things you can do to participate in NNCW:
- Ask your teacher to let your class do a project about name-calling. Even though the Creative Expression Contest is over for this year, you can still show that you want to end name-calling by writing poems or essays or creating other pieces that express your viewpoint. Rainbow Rumpus would love to hear your thoughts.
- Hold a poster contest. Ask an art teacher to have a school project creating anti-bullying posters. Decorate the hallways with the images and slogans.
- Spread the message in your morning announcements. Ask a teacher or administrator to remind the school community of the significance of the week by advertising events and sharing student essays or poetry during morning announcements.
- Develop a classroom anti-slur policy. Work with teachers to outline rules and expectations about classroom language, and display your anti-slur policy prominently.
- Write an article for the school newspaper. Cover No Name-Calling Week in your school publications and local newspaper.
- Create a library display. Ask your school librarian to create an eye-catching display of books that deal with name-calling and bullying.
- Discuss sportsmanship in physical education classes. Since so much bullying occurs on the field and in the locker room, ask physical education teachers to take a few minutes to discuss the values of sportsmanship and respect in athletics.
- Screen the No Name-Calling Week video. Ask a teacher to show the twenty-seven-minute video available in the No Name-Calling Week Kit that features young people talking about their experiences with name-calling, vignettes from The Misfits, name-calling scenarios, and effective anti-bullying strategies from a social worker.
- Share tips with parents and school staff. Ask your teachers to visit http://www.nonamecallingweek.org for tip sheets for parents and school personnel. The No Name-Calling Week Kit features additional advice for families, administrators, and health and safety professionals.
- Wear No Name-Calling Week stickers. Students, faculty, administrators, and support staff can all show their dedication to ending bullying by wearing or displaying No Name-Calling Week stickers. Downloadable versions are available in the Resources section of the No Name-Calling Week site. Sixty glossy three-color stickers come with the No Name-Calling Week Kit, and stickers can also be bulk-ordered from Human Relations Media.