More than a few eyebrows were raised among the kids gathered for an assembly at Ron Brent elementary school when some of their teachers spontaneously got up and started dancing to the beat of Michael Jackson's Black and White.
Then another wave of teachers clad in pink anti-bullying T-shirts joined in, and there was no stopping the flash mob momentum. Soon the entire teaching staff started boogying in front of the stage and the kids couldn't keep a straight face. Their laughs filled the gym Wednesday on Pink Shirt Day, a nationwide event to highlight the fact bullying is not going to be tolerated in our society.
Grade 6 student David Rollier believes his classmates have gotten the message about why there should be a ban on bullying and what students can do to intervene if it happens, and he doesn't think it's a problem at his school.
"I don't see it here, and it makes me feel safe," said Rollier.
"The assemblies and shirts help, it makes kids not want to bully and help out. The school is trying to prevent it by teaching us what bullying is and how it hurts people. It could hurt one person and you may not know it."
The students at Ron Brent will spend the entire week focusing on the anti-bullying theme. Their school has taken a preventative approach to stop bullying behaviour before it becomes a problem.
"One day for anti-bullying is a focus but we do it throughout the year and I think most schools do," said Ron Brent guidance counsellor Nancy Alexander. "Instead of just saying, 'don't bully,' we're replacing bullying behaviour with kindness and giving kids tools to solve their problems and socialize in different ways. Play is really important for kids these days and they need to get off the screen time and learn how to interact socially and play. It's the number one skill we need for employment."
Teaching assistant Allison McCormick said the school has high expectations regarding student behaviour and how they show respect for their peers and is consistent in how those rules are applied, which makes the kids feel their safety is not threatened. While some of the teachers were more reluctant than others to show off their dance moves in reinforcing the message of the day, McCormick said they all wanted to show students the value of not being afraid to get involved.
"Several staff got on board and once you volunteer, there's no backing out," said McCormick. "We've had a lot of fun practicing. We ask the kids to go out of their comfort zone often, so now it's our turn."
Celeste Tait, a designated peer helper and Grade 7 student at Ron Brent, was hoping to join the flash mob but the song ended just as teachers were going into the crowd to ask students to get up and dance. She said with kids not afraid to tackle bullying issues, her job as a peer helper has been made a lot easier.
"I've noticed lots of kids have been stopping bullying because sometimes they know they're hurting others like they got hurt when they were in a younger grade," said Tait. "They're being more nice to people."
Muriel Nicholas was amused to see her Grade 7 teacher Miss Hogan join the flash mob.
"It was kind of crazy and funny at the same time when my teacher got up, it looked like she was kind of confused and she had to watch Miss Brown," said Nicholas.
"I think they were trying to provoke us to not be shy and to stop bullying. There are fewer bullies because we've actually been doing something about it. Parents and teachers have been helping kids to get rid of the bullies and that's helped out at this school."
Prince George RCMP got into the act with Pink Shirt Day.
Staff, volunteers and RCMP members wore pink in some form in support of anti-bullying efforts throughout the community.
- with files from Mark Nielsen