Virtual Students Make Real-life Friends

Virtual Students Make Real-life Friends

By April Murnane & Charlie Meehan

On March 22nd, nine students and two teachers set off from 6 different countries to meet in Europe for the very first time. They’d been meeting for months virtually, in order to prepare for a week-long trip to London and Paris. Nothing may have truly prepared them for what an unforgettable experience it would be and that they’d form such strong bonds with one another…

Once we had all arrived in London and all of the students had been introduced, it was as if they’d known each other for years. A teacher from another school on the tour even commented that you’d think the students were all family the way they interacted with one another. The students were friendly, inclusive, outgoing and perhaps not what others may have expected from the “homeschool group.” They took every opportunity to soak in the culture, sights, sounds, and tastes of each city. Unfortunately, we did not have the opportunity to try escargot (snails). However, there was no shortage of French chocolate in everyone’s suitcases by the end of the trip!

The students’ first day in London began the moment they set foot off the plane. We took the “tube” to Trafalgar square and visited the National Gallery. Then, we had a traditional dinner of Fish n’ Chips.

The second day in London, we took a bus tour of all the major sites in the morning. In the afternoon, we set off for the countryside to visit Windsor Castle, the Queen’s primary residence. To our surprise, she was actually present during the first part of our visit, but sadly, none of us were invited for tea.

Our last day in London was spent exploring the Tower of London, an old prison. We even got a glimpse of the Crown Jewels!

Very early the next morning, we rushed off to the train station. We took the Eurostar train to Paris (the one where you pass underneath the English Channel)! Surprisingly, our ears didn’t even pop, and it didn’t feel as if we were hundreds of feet underwater!

After arriving in Paris, we went right into the city center to explore. We saw some of the major monuments such as Notre Dame, Place de la Concorde, Champs-Elysees, and the Arc de Triomphe. During our walking tour, we even had glimpses of the Eiffel Tower lit up in the night sky.

The next morning we went on a bus tour to see some of the other famous monuments and sites spread across the immense city of Paris. Our afternoon was spent walking through the Palace of Versailles and its elaborate gardens. That evening we were treated to a traditional dinner of crêpes! Then we were off again and headed for the Eiffel Tower. Seeing it sparkle at night is really something special. A few of the students even got as far as the very top…by foot!

On our last day in Paris, we spent the morning discovering the thousands of ancient artifacts housed in the Louvre, the worlds largest and most visited museum. We saw works such as the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. In the afternoon, we hiked all the way to the highest point in Paris, Montmartre. We took pictures in front of the Roman-Byzantine style basilica Sacré Cœur, and then we took a stroll through the quaint, narrow streets full of artists, crafts and souvenir shops. That evening, we took a riverboat cruise on the Seine which topped off our amazing journey through two of the worlds most renowned cities.

What is most memorable about this trip, however, is likely not all the famous places we visited, but the strong relationships with one another that were formed. Right from the beginning, despite the diversity of our group, no one was ever left out, clicks were never formed, but instead, each student welcomed the other with open arms. No matter the students gender, ethnic background, first language, religion, or style of dress, these students were without fail always inclusive and accepting of others. Our students were outgoing, enthusiastic, energetic and ready for anything. This trip certainly broke the stereotype of the introverted home-school student who lacks social skills! As their teachers, we found them infectiously fun to be around.

As virtual learners, these students have learned how to be self-disciplined, and part of their success as virtual students is being punctual and responsible for themselves. This was proven time and time again over the course of our trip through London and Paris. They were always on-time and looked out for one another being conscious not to allow someone to feel left out, left behind or to feel that they didnt fit in. We couldnt have been more proud of the way they represented our school, and it was very difficult to say goodbye. Its very likely these students will stay in touch and find a way to visit each others home cities someday.

As online teachers, it sometimes is easy to feel disconnected to the students. One can feel isolated and “on an island” as the days and weeks pass by. However, we as online teachers should never forget that we interact each and every day with incredible students who each have their own stories, personalities, backgrounds, and interests. As teacher chaperones for the K12 International Academy 2014 Trip to London and Paris, our 9 student travelers reminded us why we log into our jobs every day. For six days in March, we witnessed young people, ages 14-18, interact with one another as if they had known each other for years, not hours. A trip that began as an excursion to learn about two very unique, diverse cities became a microcosm for what these 9 student travelers represented collectively. Even though they all live in different states and countries, they found commonalities in each other, formed bonds, genuinely cared for each other, and created life-long memories and friendships with each other that will live years beyond their classrooms experiences. I know that they have had an effect on us as teachers who were fortunate enough to spend time with them, get to know them, and return to our jobs Monday morning invigorated that what we do DOES make a difference, and that we are the luckiest teachers in the world because we get to interact and educate remarkable young people every day.

K¹² International Academy Student Examines the National Honor Society

National Honor Society

By Kimia Pourali

The National Honor Society (NHS) is an organization with chapters in schools all across the United States. Its purpose is to recognize students who are outstanding achievers and are willing to devote themselves to the Society’s core tenets:

· Scholarship

· Service

· Leadership

· Character

Students should be enthusiastic about education, devote time and effort for community service, be effective leaders, and have the desire to build their characters, and encourage such character development in the students of their schools.

Students must be tenth graders, and to meet the expectations for the “Scholarship” tenet, they must have a GPA of at least 3.0 (3.3, for K12 International Academy’s NHS chapter), and must maintain such a GPA throughout their membership.

So, what are the benefits of applying to National Honor Society?

First, members have access to plenty of tools and project resources which allow the members to collectivity enhance service learning skills and leadership development in their chapters. These skills and development can be used in members’ own communities.

One specific project resource is the National Student Project Database. The database allows users to filter projects by categories, including appreciation, ceremonies, fundraising, and green projects, among many others. NHS Chapters can also enter their service projects into the Outstanding Service Project (OSP) awards.

The chapters of NHS are generally great mediums of motivation, inspiration, and support for thriving fresh ideas on how to contribute to their schools and own communities. Students can form networks with community leaders, faculty, and local business leaders, all of whom may provide future references and recommendations, and even provide future internships and jobs. Through NHS, all the continuous required service work and achievement necessary for membership help students build up portfolios of all their accomplishments “that can be featured on applications for college and careers, as well as cover letters and resumes.”

Members also have access to conferences and workshops at both the state and national level. An example of this is Leadership Experience and Development (LEAD) Conferences. LEAD Conferences are weekend meetings that gather student leaders and advisers from across the nation to improve leadership and prepare attendees for leadership roles spanning from local, state, and regional levels. Common topics covered in LEAD Conferences include; combating issues such as bullying, drugs, alcohol, and teen mental illness, project planning, fundraising, idea-sharing, networking, community service, teambuilding, and healthy lifestyles.

A major benefit of membership with NHS is access to the NHS scholarship program, which will award up to $250,000 every year to NHS high school seniors, nationwide. The NHS Scholarship Program has been “providing more than $10 million in scholarship funds to outstanding NHS members.” The program has a few great categories. If you are interested, the categories are outlined on their website.

If any of this has interested you, thus far; then, you should consider joining iCademy’s chapter of NHS, run by Mrs. Lynn Gussman and Mrs. Jessica Dawson.

You must:

  • Be a full time K12 International Academy student
  • Have a sophomore standing (10th grade), at least
  • Have completed and passed at least five classes at iCademy
  • Have a cumulative grade point average of 3.3, at least (based on all official high school records)
  • Identify leadership roles
  • Identify service, community, and other student activities
  • Identify any work experience, recognition, and awards
  • Provide a Letter of Reference
  • Write a short essay answering how being a member of NHS will contribute to your future goals

Here, at K12 International Academy, as a virtual school, student service work is somewhat ‘decentralized,’ and has greater focus on students’ own individual communities. Nonetheless, the iCademy NHS chapter still creates a (virtual) environment that promotes enthusiasm for scholarship, stimulating the desire to give back to communities, development of character, and advancement of leadership.

K¹² International Academy’s chapter of NHS, like others, also elects members for being President, Vice President, Secretary, and Editor.

Lastly, K¹² International Academy’s chapter of NHS also has its own newsletter. Members contribute to it by writing about their own service activities, providing advice and helpful quotes to other (non-member) students, and shedding light on various current events. This newsletter is k-mailed out to all students every month. Be sure to look for it in your k-mails!

This post is also featured in the K¹² International School Student News (iGlobe)

K¹² International Academy Introduces First Student Blog

Introducing our first student blogger–Kimia Pourali, she is a 15-year-old junior at K¹² International Academy. Kimia resides in the state of North Carolina in the United States. She is greatly interested in computer science/programming, political science, and international relations. Her hobbies include playing cello and piano. She is also fond of learning about various languages and cultures. She is a Staff Writer and the Assistant Editor for iCademy’s school newspaper (iGlobe). She enjoys contributing thought-provoking article and presentation topics. She is the Chairperson of iCademy’s Model United Nations club, and an active member in Mu Alpha Theta (MATH) and National Honor Society (NHS). She serves her community as a Certified Reading Tutor with American Youth Literacy Foundation. She is enthusiastic about, and adores all of her activities with iCademy, which provide opportunities to strengthen her abilities in scholastics, character, leadership, and camaraderie, which all benefit her future, in college and later career. Welcome Kimia, to our K¹² International Academy School blog!

K¹² International Academy Celebrates National Library Week

April 13-19th National Library Week

Public libraries have gone digital!

By Anna Peacock-McLaughlin

In the United States, this week is National Library Week. An entire week devoted to the smells, sights and love book collections! However, you are a student, learning coach, parent or teacher at the K12 International Academy; therefore, you might not have access to a physical library…

The distinct musty smell of the Hayden Burns Library in downtown Jacksonville takes me back to my middle school days when I was homeschooling. Indeed, my mom, and teacher, gave me an assignment to research Arthurian Legend. I remember driving up to that super mod 1960’s building that held me captive for so many hours of my childhood and youth, and knowing that I would learn so much while reading, researching, and devouring books about King Arthur. Those books helped me create replicas of castles to scale, write historical folklore research reports and become engrossed in the ideas of kings, swords and round tables. These days, the good news is, you don’t have to live in amazing cities with amazing libraries to have access to books from around the globe! Libraries are at your fingertips!

Have you had a chance to check out Google Books? Yes, Google has an amazing collection of books that are available for download or your on-screen viewing pleasure. I know they are a company, but Google is offering full length books that are in the public domain and other library search services for free! By simple pressing a few keys on your computer you too can have the stories of King Arthur.

The US Library of Congress also has a great collection of works that you can access. Specifically, I love that you can find videos. The digital collection makes an excellent source for historical research papers or even historical legend papers!

Lastly, a great audio library is Librivox. It’s an awesome collection of free public domain books that have been audio recorded by readers like you and me! If you want to take your reading experience about Arthurian Legend even further, listen to, “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthurs Court” by Mark Twain.

Just so you know, you don’t have to only search for books about King Arthur. Many of your “select a novel” choices in the K12 curriculum and your other favorite novels can be found by simply searching digital library sites.

Follow along during National Library Week with hashtags:

#nlw14 and #liveschange

Tips For AP Exam Review

By Kristi Hartmann

Are you preparing for the Advanced Placement Exam?

It is the time of year when students across the world are rigorously preparing for their AP Exams. After all, a score of 3 or higher on these exams can enable students to earn college credits, depending upon individual university requirements. Successful preparation for these exams can be somewhat stressful; however, there are ways that students can alleviate this stress.

It is essential for students to have an organized study plan in place. This involves settings specific time aside each day to study. This studying needs to be in addition to the completion of the coursework in the AP course. Studying should take place during a student’s optimal learning time. Some students work well early in the morning, while others work better later in the day. In order for studying to be successful, students need to choose a time and place that is advantageous and free from any type of distraction.

In addition, it is important for students to complete practice exams. The AP Exams are timed, and timed tests can cause unnecessary testing anxiety in students. The more that students familiarize themselves with the content on the exam and the time constraints, the more comfortable they will be with sitting for a timed exam.

Most importantly, students need access to AP Exam preparation tools. The College Board website has wonderful study tips, as well as practice questions and exams for students to review. K¹² International Academy also has AP Exam Review courses and K12 has just released wonderful Exam Review apps, so students can access AP Exam Review content at their fingertips.

For more tips check out our K¹² International Academy Pinterest Board

Good Luck on your test!

Traveling with the K¹² International Academy program

jet.plane

Traveling with the K¹² International Academy program

by Anna Peacock-McLaughlin

Like many of you, I love to travel and eat foods from all over the world. In fact, when I was 11 I had the chance to visit Prince Edward Island, Canada see the Anne of Green Gables sites from the amazing books (also in the K¹² English A and B curriculum) by L.M. Montgomery. The character of Anne captivated me with her creativity, personality and larger than life red hair! One of my goals while there was to try some authentic Marilla Cuthburt Plum Pudding from one of the most hysterical parts of the novel.

In typical Anne fashion, she gets caught daydreaming of being a bride with a piece of cloth that was covering some plum pudding. You see, way back in the days before refrigeration, people used cheesecloth and pie safes to protect their baked goods from getting eaten by bugs and mice. You can only imagine what happened next…as the saying goes, “The proof was in the pudding!” Indeed, Just like the meaning of the saying, I was overjoyed when I was able to experience authentic plumb pudding myself! It was delicious and mouse free!

I know I’m not the only one who likes to travel, eat and experience! After three years of teaching at the K¹² International Academy, I’ve started to calculate how many frequent flyer miles my students accumulate throughout the year.….holidays traveling from Dubai to the states and back, moving from Singapore to Mississippi, sporting competitions in every place imaginable. Then, there are the students that are continuously on the road. Like the sports stars that have tournaments all over the world. The actors that are on locations. The expats that are always in search of the next adventure. “What can we do for school while we are traveling to (fill in the blank)?” has become a common question from my learning coaches and students. My answer is always the same! The proof is in the pudding! In fact, there are many flexible study options available to traveling iCademy students.

First of all, students can always read their next novel while traveling. Many of you already know, I’m an English teacher…so of course, I automatically think about reading! All of our middle school English classes have “choose your own” novels with many different options for your liking. If you know your family is going to be taking a longer than usual vacation, by all means, look ahead at the novel units, make a choice, buy, download or borrow the book. And just like that, the proof is in the pudding; indeed, you have a book for your student to read as you fly, float or drive to your destination.

Secondly, have you ever thought about “blocking” your work for a week or two? It’s easy. Instead of lugging every single one of your K12 books, choose one or two. Then focus on that subject only. Do a week’s worth of lessons every day. Once again, you can eat yummy pudding one little bite at a time so that you don’t come home to a mouse filled, rotten mess of assignments.

Last, but certainly not least give a schedule a try. If you know that you are going to be sightseeing for the day or if you know you’ve got matches every day at noon, start your day off right, every single day you are traveling, with an early morning dose of school. Two hours completed before the day of adventure begins helps make a HUGE dent in any plum pudding.

I must admit, I’m not foreign to the idea of traveling with iCademy. With a husband in the US military, I’ve had my fair share of travel and moving stories. In fact, some of you have Skyped with me while I was flying (literally in the air) from Florida to Washington state. I’ve driven from Oklahoma to Colorado while stopping at Starbucks to teach a class or two. Even more, my best travel story was written as I was attending an open house while at my husbands grandparents house. Why is that interesting you may ask. Well, they don’t have internet. The truth is we, members of iCademy, find ways to travel with our school. Our school exists everywhere we go making easy. The proof is in the pudding.

Indeed, you have possibilities to continue learning even while you are traveling. Whether you travel to the location of your favorite novel from our curriculum, like I did when I was 11, or you travel to the hottest foodie destination, next time you pack your bag and start humming the John Denver classic travel song, “I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane,” know that your K¹² International Academy schooling can go with you. Are you ready? Get your plan! I know you are going find the proof in the pudding– traveling and keeping up with your studies is easy!

Consistent Teachers = Confident Learners

By Monica O’Donnell

Consistent Teachers = Confident Learners

Consistency is crucial for the confident student. You provide the consistency and your learner will grow in confidence.

So, put down your latest teacher-book-of-the-month read.

Bookmark that educational research journal for later.

Continue that “crushing” game during your next professional development.

I am joking! Do not stop learning.

Teachers cannot stop learning the best practices for our changing world. However, there is one area of teaching that does not need tweaking.

That is…drumroll please….Consistency. Do not reinvent the wheel.

Whether you are in the brick-and-mortar or online setting, your students expect, crave, and thrive in a consistent environment. I only re-invent the wheel for my actual lesson. I keep everything else predictable.

My students receive their greeting and chitchat with me while waiting for the two-minute timer to alert us all to start time.

Our communication guidelines, which are always, displayed beautifully in my desired theme settings, can be recited by me and my students in our sleep.

However, they set the stage and remind us all about the important safety rules of communicating appropriately.

This would happen in my brick-and-mortar classroom as well. We started off every day with our pledge to ourselves, our classmates, and our classroom. I thought I would never forget it, but as soon as I typed that “we started off every day with our pledge to ourselves,” it left my brain.

I remember this and this only, “Today is a new day.”

Great.

Okay…So, today is a new day. I don’t remember the rest. Let’s use my mom’s favorite euphemism to explain this, “I had a senior moment.”

Other moments students expect are scheduled ones. They love the familiar.

It helps shy ones pop out of their shells and veterans shine.

After the guidelines, we move on to the agenda.

Yep. The same. Every time.

1. Warm-up

2. Goal

3. Lesson

4. Recap

5. Questions

My warm-up is typically a mini-lesson. No need to bore you with the details, but I try to do something familiar for my students.

Maybe we had a probing question that now has an answer and I can share.

Maybe we focus on a struggling skill that I noticed over the last week’s composition conferences.

Maybe it is the random question I came up with at midnight, as I was tweaking the PowerPoint.

I just like to warm-up the students.

Maybe they just woke-up and need a wake-up call.

Maybe they are about to hop in bed and need to burn off their last bit of energy before they hit the sack.

Speaking of rousing, my lovely teammate, and fellow blogger, Anna Peacock-McLaughlin, enlightened me with the idea of the goal-of-the-day as well as, recap and questions. The students and I love sharing our daily goals from folding laundry, to avoiding mom because she wants to read your essay, to attending back-to-back class connects so procrastination wins over work, or maybe just wanting to “hang with their favorite teacher and peeps.”

By goal time, most students have graced us with their presence or Blackboard has finally allowed them in the classroom, and we can get the party started.

The lessons vary, but they usually revolve around some alliterative phrase created in five seconds. Let’s review my last five Class Connect titles,

“Grammar Gallery”

“Anecdotal Antics”

“Raise Your Rhetoric Right-hand and Repeat After Me”

“Powerful Prepositions”

“Victor Verbs.”

If they aren’t alliterative, they rhyme.

Take, “Revising Cookies for Rookies” or “Rubricicious Judicious with a Hint of Delicious, for example.”

Don’t even ask…

I “got” a problem…literally…here’s another title,

“Getting Sick of Get and Gotten…Got it?”

So, I admit. I make titles up just to bring in the numbers…it’s all about the title.

After the title has been made-up in a matter of five seconds, I spend the next five hours determining how to tie it into my “real” class connect topic.

Maybe I need to work on my time management.

However, I am a classic consistent doer.

My lessons are not glamorous, however, I try to make the slides pleasing to the eyes, and follow some sort of theme.

One of my personal favorites…I played doctor and prescribed my poor writers some WWS SKILLS.

“Write On My Graffiti Wall” – We “tagged” each other with our best writing skills.

I am pretty sure I listened to Pandora© Radio while creating this PowerPoint.

Talking on the microphone, writing on the whiteboard, discussing in the chat box, showing off our new haircuts on the webcam, and occasionally using the polling tools, are the expected norms in Mrs. O’s class connects.

I am not a fan of the “dog and pony show,” rather real conversations and real teaching.

Take this chiasmus…”You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but you can trick an old dog.” Right? Agree? No…

How about the spoonerism “hiss and lear?”

You know…”Listen here?”

Oh, that’s right. You don’t speak Mrs. O.

You would only understand if you attended her class connects.

You show up.

You make it part of your routine.

You learn her system.

You trust your teacher.

You participate and you give yourself to whatever silly title Mrs. O has planned for you.

Wrapping up the class is as important as setting it up. Since Mrs. Anna Peacock-McLaughlin, my pal, introduced to me this idea last year, I end all classes the same way.

For the recap, we share with our peers “What you learned, what you loved, what you will try.” It is easy and because the students know it is coming every time, I like to think that they prepare themselves for that slide every time.

Subconsciously, they might say…”Hey…there I go. There is what I learned. I’ll be sharing that with the class later. Note to self.”

The great Jim Henson said, “[Students] don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.”

Be consistent in routine, so you become that trusty teacher they remember for all times.

Check out our Pinterest Boards for more tips & tricks and loads of insight about our K12 International Academy community!

Did you know K12 International Academy has a rolling enrollments?  Re-enrollment and Fall enrollment is happening now!  Click Here Today!

What is a 21st Century Educator?

What is a 21st Century Educator?

By Roey Hilliard

Recently I wrote a blog about how Extraordinary Teachers Are Using Technology to Transform Education The natural progression of this blog was to examine who these extraordinary teachers are.

Teachers such as the one described in the blog are 21st century educators—professionals who have adapted to the technological transformation that has taken place in online learning. The dynamics of education are transforming via the Internet and ever-expanding technologies.

K¹² International Academy, one of the K¹² Inc.’s private online schools, has become a showcase for these technologically savvy and exceptional 21st century teachers.

Although an online teacher’s office may seem atypical to the status quo, the dynamics of education are transforming via the internet. These teachers are guiding students in their educational journey using the award-winning K¹² curriculum, flexible scheduling, individualized instruction, and dedicated support. Beyond the classroom, these teachers embrace social media and engage in positive community building for their school. From teaching blogging tips on how to begin a new school year, establish a routine, or how to sustain your sparkle, to liking the K¹² International Academy Facebook page and being rewarded with important announcements and invitations to live events.

K¹² International students have embraced and engaged in this 21st Century education methodology by sharing some of their favorite school projects on Instagram and participating in live virtual field trip chats (#icadvft) on Twitter.

Stay tuned–Next, we will examine these extraordinary students.

For more information about K¹² International Academy go to www.icademy.com .

K12 International Academy is now enrolling for Spring terms– ENROLL TODAY!

Just go with it…

By Monica O’Donnell

Just go with it…

We all have them.

Strengths.

Some of us cannot see past our weaknesses. Some of us possess strengths but use them ineffectively. Some of us use them, but do not realize the power they harvest.

I have never been one to be the most organized, the one with the most initiative, the one with the most polished-perfect-grammatically-correct emails, but I know what my strength is, and I know I use it.

Whether it is in my neighborhood, church, grocery store, family, or school, I can make a connection with anyone. Also, the age difference doesn’t matter one bit. I like them all.

Working with students on a daily basis is my – favorite – part – of – the – day.

Out of the many stories I hold from 15 years of teaching, I am pulling out not a longstanding-still-going-strong story that for sure will back up my point, but a new one.

A story that I’m still working on.

A story that I yet to know the ending.

A story that I will share with you today.

Find your strength and go with it. Here’s mine.

It all started with a “happy dance.”

Me: I enjoyed working with you yesterday! I can’t believe you are about to be finished.

Student: Me too! Yay!

Me: Woo hoo.

Student: J

Now, times that by 94 exchanges since July…

[I’m waiting for the K-Mail police to scold me for breaking some kind of storage limit rule.]

Here was today’s picture…

Me: This is how I felt after today.

I am surrounded by such a talented staff that sometimes I feel defeated, not worthy, or not good enough. It is when I see this picture; I am reminded that I am doing just fine…

Me: Does this basket make my tail look big?

Why do I try to fit into a mold that is not me?

I should not only use my strengths, but flaunt them.

I should go with it.

Me: Poodles have the craziest haircuts!

Student: Aww! I know, right?

To create a community, a school, a place that is loved, cherished, and maintains high retention rates; we must boast our qualities, features, skills, wit, orderliness, intelligence, and dependability and – go – with – it. We must trust that together we will build that bridge, form that relationship, make that connection, extract the epiphany, focus the muddy waters, support the deficiencies, and then together, we can sail into a solid relationship where the student flourishes.

Me: Now that is cute!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 🙂 Which one are you?

Student: Uuuum I think the sheep? 😛

Which one are you? Which strengths do you possess? What skills do you bring to our community of learners, to our families? Do you know what you have? Do you flaunt it? Do you lay down your puzzle piece and help pave the road to success? You do not have to make everyone laugh, everyone smile, everyone smarter. You just have to do your part. Whatever it is…Just go with it.

Student: I’m so excited!!! I start school on Wednesday!!

Me: Woo hoo! I can’t wait to see you!!!!!!!!!!!!

So, find your strength, your gift, your talent, and…

Me: hang your hat on that!

Anti-bullying blog

by Monica O’Donnell

Sophia, the Red-Rover Bully: A True Story

Since October is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, I thought I could blog about this issue and share a true bullying story, featuring me.

All names have been changed to protect the identities of the ones who bullied me, because I have forgiven them, and do not hold a grudge.

In the seventh grade, I sported the physical education gym clothes and headed out to the gym for a friendly game of dodge ball.

I hope you can sense the irony there.

There is nothing friendly about hitting each other with balls and dodging them as they whip past your head.

It is important to set the scene for you. Despite my father’s dreams of his only daughter becoming an athlete, I was not one. My petite, 4’9’’ and 65 lbs. body was anything but an athlete.

Official Seventh Grade Photo

However, because I was my dad’s daughter, my competitive nature was like no other, so if my teacher tells me to hit my classmates with a ball, I was going to go for it.

Once the whistle blew, it was time for my death defying dodging and my aimless nonathletic throws. I honestly believe I stayed in the game for as long as I did because I was too small to hit. The numbers of participants were dwindling down and my confidence rose with every defeat. I stayed out of the way and my aimless throws were hitting undesignated targets. With about four girls left, my ball hit Sophia square in the chest. When Sophia picked up the ball and continued playing, I, the rule follower that I was, alerted the teacher that Sophia “forgot” to sit out.

The whistle blew, and Sophia was motioned by the teacher to head to the sidelines. Sophia’s you-betta-watch-yo-back-girl-cuz-you-are-mine face made me turn around, because I thought, “Surely she isn’t talking to me. She was out and just forgot to sit down. I was helping her out.” Boy, was I naïve.

Back in the locker room, despite the loss, I still enjoyed the game. My smile soon left my face as Sophia, Avery, and Lauren formed a triangle and walked towards me simultaneously.

I didn’t cry out for help. I didn’t move an inch. I had never been in a situation like that ever before. My mom had never prepped me for a dodge-ball-game-gone-bad scenario, so I froze in my tracks and awaited my punishment.

Sophia and her posse stopped inches from me then Sophia threatened, “You don’t know who you just messed with and you better watch your back.”

They turned, walked off, and launched their six year bullying campaign against me.

I.Did.Not.Tell.A.Soul.

I did not tell my mom. I did not tell my teacher. I did not tell a friend.

Looking back, I wish that I would have told my mom, my teacher, a friend –anyone.

Back in P.E., weeks later, my teacher announced we were playing Red-Rover. Two lines of holding hands stood across from each other and the teams took turns yelling, “Red-Rover Red-Rover, let So-and-So come over.” So-and-So would let go and run across the gym to the other line. She would find two sets of arms and attempt to break her way through. If she did, she took those two people with her to her side, and if she was caught, she had to stay on that team and grab hands.

Our teacher blew her whistle yelling for us to form two lines. Before I had a chance to grab hands with my friends, Avery and Lauren grabbed mine saying I was on their team. Yes, I was naïve, and yes I was hopeful, but I knew “I was not on their team.” Avery and Lauren alerted the other teammates that “Sophia” was coming over. Despite my subtle protests, the chant began to bellow out. “Red-Rover, Red-Rover, let Sophia come over.”

I felt the grip on my hands tighten, quickly understanding the negative outcome of this game. Despite losing for my team, I did not want to lose my arms. Sophia was three times my size and about a foot taller than me. Sophia running towards me was like a middle linebacker taking aim for the quarterback.

With about a few feet to go, I braced for the collision. Sophia hit my right arm and I flew slow-motion five feet back, crashed towards the gym floor with my head hitting on impact. The gym roared with laughter and my tears contested the pain because I feared the tears would only make the shame worse.

Even though that even happened 24 years ago, I remember it like it was yesterday. I have wondered many times if Sophia, Avery, and Lauren regret their actions, but then I quickly dismiss it. Instead, I focus on the future and share my experiences, my regrets, and my hope for others to stop the cycle of bullying or tell someone they are a victim of bullying.

That day, even though I was a little seventh grader, I had a powerful voice. I could have told my teacher, a counselor, a friend, my mom, and maybe, just maybe, the next six years of torture would not have occurred.

Being bullied is never okay. You do not deserve it. You do not have to take it. If you or someone you know is being bullied please talk to someone you can trust.

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