From jeers to cheers as kids star in film

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

All alone: Gregory Trechel, 8, plays the part of a bullied student, mocked by his classmates after he was pushed and dropped his books. The scene is part of a Lynnwood Elementary video filmed to promote kindness and respect.

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

From victim to hero: Gregory Trechel rides on the shoulders of Union hockey defenseman, freshman Matt Krug, as he parades triumphantly down the hallway at Lynnwood Elementary School. The scene is part of a video to prevent bullying, which is scheduled to premier on Dec. 13 at a school assembly.

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

A smile breaks across the face of a once-forgotten boy as he is circled by supportive Union College hockey players on the new playground at Lynnwood Elementary School.


The Enterprise — Michael Koff

Huddled in despair, this little boy plays the part of a rejected student as his classmates swing nonchalantly about him, ignoring his plight. The scene is part of a Lynnwood Elementary video meant to provide “teachable moments” for years to come.

GUILDERLAND — Two girls, giggling classmates, strut down the Lynnwood Elementary School hallway where a boy is getting books from his locker. They laugh as they bump into him and his books cascade to the floor.

Soon a crowd of kids gather, pointing and laughing at him.

A horrifying scene of school bullying.

But wait.

On the horizon, much like the cavalry of old, is a bevy of boys — young men, really — dressed in black athletic warm-ups. The heroic bystanders tell the kids they shouldn’t taunt the boy, but should embrace him.

The kids circle around lone boy, exchange high fives with him and then, in an impromptu parade, the small boy is hoisted to the shoulders of one of the athletes as the kids en masse march down the hall, cheering.

All this, and more, was captured on film at Lynnwood Elementary yesterday. Lisa Corrado, a special-education teacher, wielded the camera, and Tod Mell, a math specialist, directed.

Making the film, said Alicia Rizzo, the school’s principal, is “an opportunity for kids to internalize lessons.”

She explained, “We can tell them things but, if we show them, they learn far better.”

The film, which doesn’t yet have a title, will be premiered on Dec. 13 at the school’s  “Share and Celebrate” assembly. After that, it will be posted on the Guilderland School District’s website and teachers will be able to use it on iPads.

The seed for the film was planted when some hockey-playing kids at the school were “tussling,” said Rizzo.

“Hockey players do it,” one of the students responded when reprimanded.

“We said, it’s discipline, teamwork, and skill,” said Rizzo of the sport. “Hockey is huge here,” she went on, saying that both boys and girls at Lynnwood are active in youth hockey leagues in Schenectady and that the kids see Division I players at Union College as heroes.

“My daughter’s boyfriend plays for Union,” said Rizzo. “So I reached out to the coach.”

Head Coach Rick Bennett, whose team is currently ranked 11th in the nation with an 8-3-2 record, said his players were happy to participate in the Lynnwood project.

“I felt it was an excellent message,” Bennett told The Enterprise last night, of the anti-bullying campaign.

He went on, “Hockey gets a bad rap sometimes.”

The image of hockey players as bullies is unfounded, said Bennett.

“I’ve always been told hockey players, off the ice, are the nicest guys in sports. People get confused,” he said. “When you’re playing, it’s different. You play as hard as you can when you’re on the ice; it’s a physical game.”

“Off the ice, you’re humble,” he said; you carry yourself with dignity.

“Our students see these athletes as role models and mentors,” said Rizzo. “This was a teachable moment for the whole school.”

The film

The sound track for the film is Katy Perry’s “Roar.”

Taking a line from Muhammad Ali, the lyrics say, “Now I’m floating like a butterfly/ Stinging like a bee. I earned my stripes/ I went from zero, to my own hero.”

The chorus continues with the fighter theme: “I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire/ ’Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar…”

The film tells four stories, highlighting what Rizzo called “typical challenges.”

The first vignette is set in a third-grade classroom where the students are struggling with Common Core math problems. The hockey players come to their rescue, using manipulatives to find the answers and showing that you can ask friends for help.

The second scene shows the boy being bullied at his locker before the hockey players turn the tide, and he goes from victim to hero. “It teaches them about the difference they can make as bystanders and to be kind,” said Rizzo.

The third scene is set in the school’s new playground where a little boy is ignored by his schoolmates. They cavort about him as he huddles, all alone, against a post of the swing set, ignored by the students who are flying high around him. The hockey players notice, stop their own play, and befriend him. “It shows how to join in games and include everyone,” said Rizzo.

The fourth scene is set in the school gym where students are shooting hockey pucks. The athletic kids shoot first and laugh at the less athletic students. Then the Union hockey players teach them how to shoot and everyone celebrates the success.

“Teachers can use this to teach lessons about reaching out, being kind, not bullying, and standing up for friends,” said Rizzo. “It will have a long shelf life. We can return to its teachable moments again and again.

“The whole child”

“The overall message is, we do so much talking about academics and Common Core,” said Rizzo of the new standards, “we wanted to remind the community we teach the whole child.”

The school psychologist, Britton Schnurr, told the team working on the video that the New York Association of School Psychologists has partnered with the National Hockey League to create public-service announcements against bullying and promoting good mental health.

“We know students do much better academically if they have good mental health,” said Rizzo.

She also said, “Given some of the things with cyberbullying, we asked ourselves, ‘What pieces have we missed and how can we fill them in?’”

Four Guilderland High School juniors, all males, were arrested last month on misdemeanor charges of cyberbullying for creating and posting on YouTube a rap making sexually explicit comments about sophomore girls.

In 2011, Guilderland students were surveyed in six categories — safety, bullying, respect, self-regulating behaviors or a student’s ability to persevere, connectedness, and appreciation of diversity. Students, for example, were asked to rate, on a scale of 1 to 5, how safe they felt at school. The results hovered around 3, in the center, with elementary students feeling a bit more safe and high school students a bit less. The same was true of results in the other categories.

The 2011 survey also showed that 32 percent of Guilderland students in third, fourth, and fifth grades were bullied in school at least once, and 48 percent of students witnessed bullying. Six percent admitted to bullying others.

Reflecting national trends, the numbers climbed with the grades, peaking in middle school.

“We tell children,” Rizzo said of teaching respect. “We have them write about it. So, we thought, let’s have them see and do it. When they see themselves in it, they carry it more. A video has a larger life.”

Rizzo hopes the Union hockey players will return to Lynnwood. A special-needs student who uses a wheelchair was looking forward to the players’ visit but was ill on Wednesday, and missed it, she said.

“They were wonderful, so personable with the kids,” she said of the Union players. “This is killer math,” one college student told an elementary student of the Common Core problems. Another advised, “Stay in school.”

“It was like they had superstars — not parents, not teachers, not the principal but Division I hockey players telling them these things….The Union guys were fabulous. The kids were asking for their autographs,” said Rizzo.

Coach Bennett said his players felt the same way. “They told me they had a great time,” he said, adding, “They were humble about it…They were awestruck themselves.”

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