Students told to be sweethearts or heroes


M ore than 100 students sat in the Whitehall High School auditorium last Friday transfixed at what they saw on the screen in front of them.

For three minutes, they watched a video of Tom Murphy, a 6’1”, 230 pound bundle of kinetic energy and fast twitch muscles batter opponents with fists, knees and feet. When the video was over, Murphy a professional mixed martial arts fighter, emerged from the rear of the auditorium and made a statement that seemed to contradict everything the kids had just seen.

“I absolutely hate fighting, nothing breaks my heart more,” he said. “There is a difference between fighting and competition. What you saw on the screen was competition.”

And just like that the kids hung on Murphy’s every word for the next hour.

“We use his highlight reel and his presence—he has kind of star quality—as a sort of delicious irony. It’s one heck of a hook for the kids,” said Jason Spector, a South Glens Falls resident.

Spector and Murphy, friends, business partners and former collegiate wrestling teammates at SUNY Brockport are the faces behind a Sweethearts and Heroes, an organization that seeks to educate society about bullying.

Spector piloted the program in 2009 and three years later they have spoken to 25,000 kids across the state. Although they spoke in front of both middle and elementary school students on Friday (the elementary presentation was slightly different), their program is intended primarily for student in 6th, 7th and 8th grade where most of bullying occurs.

Their message and delivery may be unconventional, but Spector says it’s effective.

“I think our message is one of the best in the anti-bullying game,” he said. “It’s a data driven message that stimulates empathy and helps students develop an action plan.”

Their message is not how a kid can turn him or herself into a hulking power house that fears no bully, nor is about encouraging bullies to do good. Instead it’s aimed at the bystanders, the kid who sees what happens when adults aren’t around.

“It’s human nature to want to help but it’s also human nature not to do anything, not to get involved and that’s unfortunate,” Spector said. “A bystander is an accomplice unless they do something and become a sweetheart or a hero.”

According to Murphy, 85 percent of all bullying happens in front of other people.

“Bullies want an audience,” he said.

Murphy said there are five types of bullying: social alienation (the least common), indirect bullying, physical bullying and verbal bullying, by far the most common.

“Almost half of bullying comes out of our mouth. You know the old saying, ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.’ Well, we got it wrong.”

A fifth type of bullying, cyber bullying, is also of particular concern, Murphy says, because in the past students had a “magical reset button” or the weekend to get away from bullies. Today, they don’t have that luxury.

Spector says the goal of their message is to help students develop an action plan for confronting and dealing with bullying. They call the plan the ABC’s.

“A” stands for getting away or avoiding the bullying.

“Some experts say you never want to avoid a bully, but this is a short term plan to give time for a long term solution,” Spector said.

“B” stands for buddy or the idea that every student needs someone in their life to let them know they care, a sweetheart or a hero.

And “C” stands for confrontation.

“Taken at face value, it sounds crude but it’s about standing up to the problem. Going to a teacher or a parent and telling someone about it,” Spector said.

Once a kid takes a stand, it become easier for others to become someone’s hero.

Spector, who work as a physical education teacher and wrestling coach at South Glens Falls, said he sees bullying all the time, but said that’s not the real issue..

“I really got sick of seeing kids and the way they treat each other and decided I wanted to make a change in how kids treat other kids,” he said. “I don’t think bullying is the reason anyone takes their life. The common theme was an absence of sweethearts and heroes in their lives.

I don’t believe we have a bullying problem but an absence of sweethearts and heroes.”

 

Comments

comments


Read more in this week's Times in newsstands now or click here to read right now with our e-edition.

Tags: , , , ,

Obituary: Rose M. Gordon

Gordon, Rose2_20200712_0001 (2)

WHITEHALL –Rose M. Gordon (“Rosie”) went into the arms of the lord unexpectedly on July 11, 2020 at the Wesley […]

Obituary: Donald Herman Herbst

Herbst, Donald

Whitehall-Donald Herman Herbst, 81, of Champlain Ave., passed away peacefully at the Glens Falls Hospital, after a valiant fight with […]

Man shot after hitting cop with car

police

Two Rutland, Vermont men were sent to the hospital Wednesday after a shootout and chase with police. Just after midnight […]

Obituary: Jason C. Thomas

Jason Thomas obit photo

Jason C. Thomas, 44, of Willow Spring, NC (formerly of Granville, NY) passed away peacefully with family by his side […]

Backpack program marks 14 years

Skyler (left) and Melody Schinski, Ann Schinski’s grandchildren, show off some of the gear that will be given away at Saturday’s backpack drive.

By Matthew Saari School is scheduled to start in a little more than a month, so it’s time to think […]

Man shot by Rutland police

police

Two men were sent to the hospital Wednesday following a shootout and chase with police in Rutland, Vermont. Just after […]

Local businesses get big money from feds

ppp

By Matthew Saari Many of the region’s leading employers were the leading recipients of federal coronavirus stimulus money. The U.S […]

Village, town order cuts in water usage

sprinkler

By Matthew Saari The village and town of Granville both are restricting water usage in their respective municipalities due to […]

Whitehall Times 7.9.20

Granville Sentinel 7.9.20

Poultney man charged with arson

police lights

A Poultney, Vermont man has been arrested in connection with a May fire in Middletown Springs, Vermont. On Monday, Vermont […]

Magill to host virtual concert

Magill and Macri 3 cover

By Matthew Saari The show must go on. Despite all of the COVID-19 social-distancing guidelines in place, Daryl Magill is […]