Lesson on Bullying Generates New Friendships for Independence Students

Posted on 01/04/2018
Lesson on Bullying Generates New Friendships for Independence Students

The Christmas season often brings a sense of friendship and compassion. While exchanging gifts and creating memories with friends and family, it’s easy to remember all that we are most thankful for. Ivan Chen, a Chinese immigrant and student at Independence Elementary, received the best gift of all: six new friends in his fourth grade class.

As a student who looks and sounds different, Ivan wasn’t always accepted by all of his classmates. Sometimes being teased for not understanding lunch options or excluded from recess activities, acclimating to life in the United States wasn’t easy for him.

That was before Jack Fann, Parker Gubin, Tristan Reed, Patrick Longo, Parker Gubin, Nick Halterman, and Jose Zepeda had a revelation during a lesson in Mr. Fall’s fourth grade class. After a lesson that included a video about cyber bullying and social inclusion, the boys realized Ivan might be in need of some friends.

Ivan opening the gifts that his new friends gave him.“The video was about this kid who just laid there [with his head down] at lunch,” said Tristan. “Everybody brought a bad comment and just stuck it on his back. It really made me realize that Ivan is kind of like that kid.”

“One day we looked over and Ivan was just sitting there and looking all sad,” said Patrick. “We decided ‘Well, let’s try and cheer him up.” After reflecting on the lesson, the boys realized it was time to step up.

The students took it upon themselves to generate ideas about how to include Ivan during school and think of presents to give him. Using Google Hangouts, the boys worked together to think outside of the box. “It’s wonderful because it was all student initiated,” said Independence Principal Emily Pavia.

The boys ended up surprising Ivan at school with handwritten letters of apology and friendship, and a variety of gifts for him to open. “For the first time, he actually smiled,” said Nick.

“We wanted to give back and repay him for the Christmas’ he missed and show him how we celebrated Christmas,” said Tristan. With almost twenty gifts to open, Ivan was shown the generosity of his fellow classmates. “[I got] notebooks, cars, chocolate, candy, a fit bit, and a crystal kit,” said Ivan. “I’m happy because I have someone to play with now.”

Ivan has since found himself with lunch buddies and friends to play with during recess. While some gifts come wrapped in shiny paper and topped with a bow, it’s easy to see the best gifts are those of friendship and compassion.

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