“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”
― Abraham Lincoln
I was reminded of this quote by our 16th President as I attempted to complete the poetry challenge set forth in last week’s blog. Trying to gain some inspiration, I read several poems written in the same forwards-backwards style of the challenge and I was struck with just how much a simple change of perspective can alter our outlook and attitude entirely.
Instead of viewing the world in black and white, we must allow ourselves to see in radiant Technicolor.
Some might view such thinking as little more than a way to let bad behavior go unpunished; however, I would disagree. Taking the time to see things from someone else’s perspective is, instead, a way to let good behavior find its way out. It is a way to cut bad behavior off at its source. Looking for the positive doesn’t dismiss the negative; it simply doesn’t allow it to take control.
We can’t make every person and every bad situation better, but we can choose not to despair.
This challenge was a stretch for me, but I’m so glad to have taken it on. Not only did it stretch and sharpen my skills as a writer, it reminded me to slow down, step back, and look for a new perspective. I hope it has done the same for you!
So, without further ado, here is my forwards-backwards poem:
Let us know what you thought of the poem in the comments below. If any of you have taken up the challenge, please feel free to share your work, as well!
This is A. Blob is a masterfully illustrated picture book suitable for children ages 4-8. This first installment in a series follows the antics of A. Blob, a slimy, purple, blob-like creature who wreaks havoc on the elementary school playground with its bullying ways. As the story progresses, however, readers learn that there might be more to A. Blob than meets the eye. Along with its powerful illustrations and rhymed verse for early readers, this story invites children to put themselves in the shoes of another. The book demonstrates that a bully can come in any shape, size, or color and encourages readers to consider why bullies behave the way they do – and start to consider what can be done to help.
Be curious, not judgmental
I love this quote by Walt Whitman because it gets at something we don’t often discuss when dealing with the issue of tolerance. In an effort to avoid being judgmental, we sometimes throw the baby out with the bath water, viewing everyone and everything through the same lens—or not viewing them at all.
When teaching kids not to bully, we sometimes tell them that everyone is the same, but this is just not true. Everyone is not the same--thank goodness—and it’s important that we teach children to celebrate, not ignore, differences. This begins by encouraging curiosity.
Curious : Eager to know, inquisitive
The definition of “curious” is “eager to know, inquisitive”. If you’ve ever spent time with a child, you know that this trait comes naturally. Everything is new, everything is exciting, and with this novelty comes a natural desire to learn and understand. Though they learn in many ways, the primary way children discover the world around them is by asking questions. As I’m sure you also know, these questions aren’t usually filtered.
Unlike adults, children don’t know what questions they’re “not supposed to ask”. They don’t know they aren’t supposed to ask why another child’s skin is darker or lighter than theirs. They don’t know they aren’t supposed to ask why a person “talks funny”. They don’t know they aren’t supposed to ask why someone gets around by sitting in a moving chair. So, they ask—much to the embarrassment of their parents. It’s not an uncommon site to see a parent harshly shushing a child and dragging him or her away quickly as they flash an apologetic look at the person in question. The question is…why?
The answer is usually backed by good intentions. Parents may scold their children for asking these “taboo” questions because they want them to focus instead on the things we all have in common. While this isn’t necessarily a bad goal, it can have some unintentional consequences. For starters, when we completely discount diversity, we imply that differences are bad; something to be ignored and hidden. Additionally, we have a tendency to fear what we do not know. How much more will children fear unknown differences when they are coupled with the idea that differences are bad?
Perhaps the most common reason parents discourage the curiosity of their children is for fear of hurting the feelings of another. While a child will rarely point out a difference out of meanness, the person to whom they are referring may still feel uncomfortable being singled out or may be painfully reminded of the many times they were made fun of or excluded for their difference.
So what is the solution? The truth is, when dealing with children, it’s impossible to avoid all embarrassing situations. However, there are ways to minimize hurt feelings while still encouraging natural curiosity. Here are a few basic guidelines:
As adults, it’s easy to think we have it all figured out; that we know all there is to know. However, just like squelching the questions of children, believing we know it all can rob us of the joy of learning something new and wonderful about the people around us. So today, ask questions. Look at things from a new perspective.
Who--or what--is A. Blob? Spark your child's curiosity with This is A. Blob, a beautifully illustrated tale of a unique bully's antics. Discover that A. Blob and, perhaps others like him, may not be exactly what they seem. Lesson plan for teachers or discussion questions for other adults accompany an order. For ages 4-8.
“Hello! My name is Mrs. Smith and this is ___...”
It’s a phrase I am sure many of us have heard on multiple occasions. We meet a new person and then she introduces us to her friend, giving a name followed by a quick, descriptive tidbit about her, such as “This is Jane, my assistant teacher. She’s been just great building the art program this year.”
Unfortunately, with so many new faces to meet, we rarely move too far beyond this initial elevator speech. Even more regrettably, this issue isn’t restricted to the adult world. The same situation often occurs with children who prefer to stick to those students they know rather than find new playmates. While it may seem harmless, such surface-based relationships often lead to misunderstanding, hurt feelings, and even bullying. It’s a lot harder to hate or hurt someone when you actually know them; when they are more than a face and a label.
This is why we have created the “This is…” Project.
Inspired by the picture book This is A. Blob, by L.A. Kefalos, the “This is…”Project is a fun and easy way to build relationships and discourage exclusion in a group environment. While it’s designed for classrooms or large groups, any two people can try it!
Here's what you’ll need:
Begin by reading the picture book, This is A. Blob by L.A. Kefalos as a class. As the title suggests, this book explores the labels others use to define us, as well as the way our actions define ourselves. In the book, the narrator opens by stating “This is A. Blob. A slimy, purple gob.” Throughout the rest of the picture book, the narrator uses different words to describe A. Blob, such as “punk” and “thug”.
Vivid illustrations of A. Blob punching and sliming children on the playground drive these descriptions home. As the story progresses, however, the narrator reveals a different side to A. Blob, now using just one word to describe it--“lonely”. Images of A. Blob staring at a wall and sitting alone on the playground hint that there may be more to A. Blob than meets the eye.
When reading This is A. Blob as a class, pause after the first description of A. Blob. What do the students think of this character? What assumptions do they make? Why? Write these thoughts down on the chalkboard. Encourage them to really dig deep in their observations. For example, A. Blob likes to play catch and it does NOT like green or pink!!
After each additional description, add assumptions to the list. At the end of the story, have students observe how their perceptions have changed. Ask students: What do they think of A. Blob now? How have their opinions changed and why?
Next, discuss how assumptions about A. Blob could have been avoided. Could they spend time with A. Blob? Ask it questions? How would the story be different if the other children in the story had done this? Begin discussing questions students might want to ask A. Blob to help them understand it better. Some of these questions will be used later in the project as questions for students to ask one another.
*An important note to make is that, while we have a better understanding of why A. Blob acts in the way he does, it is never ok to hurt another person, either physically or emotionally. As a class, discuss the differences between compassion and condoning.*
Now that the students understand the danger of making assumptions and labels, explain how this lesson translates into the classroom. Ask them, how well do they really know their classmates? Could some of the things they think they know be wrong? Remind them that when they started reading This is A. Blob, they thought they knew just what A. Blob was. They thought they knew its character. In the end, though, the story was more complex. It’s the same with people. Like icebergs, there is so much more beneath the surface.
The Project: This is…
Just as in Kefalos’ book, we often put people into boxes: “This is Jon, a soccer player. This is Kelly, a nerd. This is A. Blob, a bully…” The goal of the “This is…” project is to take control of the “This is…” statement and, rather than allowing it to be the opening of an unfair, blanket statement, turn it into a gateway to real understanding.
To get started, divide the class into pairs by randomly choosing names out of a hat. Next, have each child interview their partners. This part of the project can differ depending on the amount of time you have and the age of the participants. These questions should go beyond “what’s your favorite subject in school” Here are some sample questions:
If you have the time and can get parents on board, extend the project for a couple weeks. Have partners visit each other’s favorite places, look through family photos, eat lunch together, or even volunteer together. At the end, each partner will write up a small report along with a drawn or printed picture featuring their partner and some of the facts that have been learned about them. I have inserted a template here, but you can feel free to get as creative as you like! Each partnership will then present their findings to the class.
Once the projects are complete, have students reflect. What did they learn about their classmates that they didn’t know before? What about their partner surprised them? Did they discover they had previously made some false assumptions? How will this project impact the way they treat and interact with others?
At the end of the presentation, put all of the projects on display under the heading “This is…Our Class”
I hope this project provides you with a fun way to break down walls and build deeper relationships in your classroom! Let us know if you try it out! What are some other ways to discourage assumptions and build community? Let us know in the comments.
This is A. Blob is a masterfully illustrated picture book suitable for children ages 4-8. Written by Lori Kefalos, author of several animated shorts, including “Who’s that Knocking,” “Chug,” and “Croc, Pots and Wildebeests,” which was nominated for Best Independent Short Short, Ages 5-8, at the 2009 Kid’s First Film Festival and for best short at The Los Angeles Women’s International Film Festival, This is A. Blob is the first of a series following this bully. This first installment follows the antics of A. Blob, a slimy, purple, blob-like creature who wreaks havoc on the elementary school playground with its bullying ways. As the story progresses, however, readers learn that A. Blob may have more than meets the eye. Along with its powerful illustrations and rhymed verse for early readers, this story invites children to put themselves in the shoes of another. The book encourages readers to consider why bullies behave the way they do – and start to consider what can be done to help.
It’s what Valentine’s Day is all about. Roses, candy, sweet notes, and everything beautiful. That’s what love is, right? Well…sometimes. But sometimes, love isn’t like that at all. Sometimes love is tears, heartache, and vulnerability. Sometimes it’s biting tongues, saying hard things, and forgiving in difficult times. You see, somewhere along the way we forgot something:
Love isn’t easy.
Actually, love is often pretty hard. Love, real love, means caring for someone and wanting their well-being, even when they aren’t very likeable. It means sometimes sacrificing your own happiness for the happiness of someone else. True love means feeling the hurts of another as if they were your own hurts. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken… To love is to be vulnerable”.
Despite this, we continue to search and even fight for love. Why? Because, although love can be incredibly difficult, it is also one of the most powerful forces in this world. Love has the power to strengthen, lift up, change, and inspire people to heights never before reached. Love has an almost magical way of making the difficult bits not so difficult. When we love someone, we want to sacrifice for them. Even when they hurt us, we want to see them be the best and happiest they can be, because we love them.
"Love is the voice under all silences, the hope which has no opposite in fear; the strength so strong mere force is feebleness: the truth more first than sun, more last than star."
-- E.E. cummings
You might ask why I’m talking about the difficult side of love right before Valentine’s Day. Why point out the cloud in an otherwise sunny sky? Because to ignore the difficult side of love is to do it a disservice. Believing that love is all warm feelings and roses is to severely underestimate its strength, power, and beauty.
In light of that, I want to pose a question: during this holiday where we like to celebrate the people we love, can we find room to love the people we don’t like? Can we do the difficult loving before we are able to experience that warm glow that makes it feel worthwhile?
Can we love bullies?
I know what you’re thinking: “Why—no, how—could I love someone who purposefully hurts others, not once, but over and over again?” I can’t imagine the pain of watching your child be bullied day in and day out. I can’t imagine what it feels like to see them come home from school in tears because of what another child said to them. I do know, however, that love has changed more hearts, behavior, and lives than hate or rejection ever has.
Don’t misunderstand me- bullying behavior should not be condoned. Children who bully must be taught that such behavior is unacceptable, but love doesn’t signify approval for actions; instead it demonstrates a belief in the person behind those actions. Discipline and guidance, though they don’t feel like it, are some of the most loving things we can do for children. Love can be hard, but only because it wants the best. Love is such a powerful force. It would be wasteful to only use it on those we liked and, if we’re honest, if we only gave love to the purely good, I imagine we would all be bankrupt.
We like to think of love as soft, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Real love is strong. Real love doesn’t give up when the going gets tough. It sticks around. It waits. It helps when it can. It loves even when it does not like.
No, love isn’t easy, but it is worth it.
So here is my challenge to you this Valentine’s Day: love someone who has not been kind to you. Try it, just once, and see what happens. If you try it out, let us know how it went in the comments below!
For a great book that helps introduce children to the idea of loving those who may act unkindly, check out This is A. Blob by L.A. Kefalos. This masterfully illustrated picture book is suitable for children ages 4-8. This is A. Blob is the first of a series following the antics of A. Blob, a slimy, purple, blob-like creature who wreaks havoc on the elementary school playground with its bullying ways. As the story progresses, however, readers learn that there may be more to A. Blob than meets the eye. Along with its powerful illustrations and rhymed verse for early readers, this story invites children to put themselves in the shoes of another. The book encourages readers to consider why bullies behave the way they do – and start to consider what can be done to help
While bullying has been an issue for many generations, technological advancements we have today leave people open to threats in the comfort of their own homes. With progress comes challenges and unfortunately cyber-bullying is a byproduct of this. However, this doesn’t mean that other bullying isn’t happening, because it is. Bullying can also happen at school and during extra curricular activities. Bullying can be the cause of depression and suicide, which is why many people are speaking out about it and advocating for a bully-free world. Thanks to HelpGuide.org, we have new insights on ways to cope with and prevent bullying.
Many times children being bullied wonder why they’re the ones being taunted. Victims might feel that something is wrong with them. HelpGuide.org helps us understand what goes on in a bully’s mind and it typically has nothing to do with the people they target. Those who bully can be jealous of the target, act out to become popular, stronger, or more powerful than the target, to escape their own problems, or because they’re being bullied themselves. If possible, instead of becoming more introverted, it can be helpful to look at the issue from a different light. The following are some tips for reframing the bullying situation to help regain a sense of control:
· Try to view bullying from a different perspective. The bully is an unhappy, frustrated person who wants to have control over your feelings so that you feel as badly as they do. Don’t give them the satisfaction.
· Look at the big picture. Bullying can be extremely painful, but try asking yourself how important it will seem to you in the long run. Will it matter in a year? Is it worth getting so upset over? If the answer is no, focus your time and energy elsewhere.
· Focus on the positive. Reflect on all the things you appreciate in your life, including your own positive qualities and gifts. Make a list and refer to it whenever you feel down.
· Find the humor. If you’re relaxed enough to recognize the absurdity of a bullying situation, and to comment on it with humor, you’ll likely no longer be an interesting target for a bully.
· Don’t try to control the uncontrollable. Many things in life are beyond our control—including the behavior of other people. Rather than allowing interactions to cause undue stress, focus on the things you can control, such as the way you choose to react to bullies.
If you have children, walk through these steps with them and help them to understand how and why to implement each suggestion. Role-play different scenarios where one of you is the bully and one of you is being bullied. How do you feel in each scenario? Why do you think the other person is acting or reacting in that way?
Another great way to help children understand and cope with bullying is through literature. Books open the doors to discussion and allow children to see situations from a new perspective. Here are a couple books that show bullying from the perspective of the victim and the bully. These books encourage children to consider the views of others:
This is A. Blob by L.A Kefalos
This picture book is the first in a series that follows the antics of a playground bully named A. Blob, a sticky blob of purple goo that wreaks havoc at school with its bullying ways. What is great about this book is that the bully is race and gender neutral, so children can project their own experiences into the story. As the story progresses, we learn that A. Blob has pain of its own and perhaps the acts of bullying are a cry for help. The text rhymes and the illustrations are beautiful, making this book a good tool for introducing bullying situations to young children.
The Weird Series by Erin Frankel
This is a series of 3 picture books, each showing the same bullying situation from 3 different perspectives (the bully, the victim, and the bystander). With each character getting her own book, children are able to get a more in-depth view of each situation than they might if everything was put into just one story. The Weird Series is geared for 8-11 year olds. Like This is A. Blob, The Weird Series is perfect for helping children to understand both the causes and effects of bullying.
Bullying is a difficult issue to deal with and understand. It’s complex, sticky, and nuanced. Thankfully it is not unsolvable. By using tools such as those provided by Helpguide.org and authors like L.A. Kefalos and Erin Frankel, we can help children to gain a new perspective on bullying, understand the issue, and begin to end bullying once and for all.
What tools have you used to help children understand the issue of bullying? What helped you to gain a new perspective? Share your experiences in the comments or talk with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest!
Purchase This is A. Blob from our website, or check it out on Amazon!
See the trailer for This is A. Blob
Purchase The Weird Series
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Hello! We are Laughing Leopard Press, an independent book publisher from Akron, Ohio. At Laughing Leopard Press, we’re interested in publishing works that contribute to our understanding of this wonderful world. Through this blog, we hope to add to that understanding with commentary on life, literature, and a few things in between. We hope you enjoy the blog and take some time to talk with us in the comments or on our social media sites. Happy reading!
This is A. Blob by L. A Kefalos. $14.95
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