RES unites against bullying

Kindness. Acceptance. Tolerance. Inclusion. These are just a few of the qualities Russellville Elementary School administrators and teachers are working to cultivate in RES students. As part of the effort, RES last week observed Unity Day, a part of National Bullying Prevention Month.

This year was the first for RES to observe Unity Day, according to counselor Michelle Murray, who said the observance aligns perfectly with the school’s new, focused efforts on character education. The ultimate goal is “creating a more positive, kind atmosphere – not just here, but in the world,” Murray said.

RES’ character education program, Project Wisdom, was put in place at West Elementary last year and provides continuity for third, fourth and fifth graders. Monthly themes encourage the students to be their best selves with morning messages over the intercom that teachers reinforce throughout the day

“It’s basically to encourage students to make wiser choices,” Murray said. “That’s going to lead to a better overall person and cut down on a lot of negative behaviors.”

“Project Wisdom encourages students to reflect upon the meaning of civic and personal values and the application of those values in their daily lives,” according to “Students with good character are caring, just, and responsible. They have developed an internal motivation to do their best and to contribute to the world around them.”

Murray said recent character education topics, particularly the lessons she has focused on during her class, center on how to identify a bully/bullying and particularly how to distinguish a pattern of bullying from a single action, a single bout of meanness – targeting the former but practicing understanding for the latter, particularly when they recognize meanness in themselves. Murray wants students to know that a single instance of “being mean” doesn’t make them a bad person, and they can still make the right choices and choose not to be a bully.

The character development focus is making a difference.

“We have seen a big difference in overall kindness,” Principal Kristie Ezzell said. “In nine weeks we’ve seen a difference. Sometimes as a school you feel like, oh I have to get these test scores up, or we have to get our academics in line, and you lose sight of the ‘whole child.’

“We’re building the future. This is going to be society in a few years. Do we want to raise children who are not kind and have bad manners?”

Students and faculty wore orange Wednesday in observance of Unity Day and bullying prevention.