D.P. Todd Secondary School teacher Gail Morong knows first-hand the horrors of bullying and the pain of discrimination. As a visible minority, Morong says she has faced the barbs and taunts. She wanted to do something to stop racism and discrimination among students, for their benefit as well as the benefit of her own children, who attend other Prince George schools.
“A group of Grade 8, 9, 10 and 11 students at D.P Todd, and Steve Baker’s drama students at John McInnis met in September and we all talked about bullying and discrimination,” said Morong. “After brainstorming and identifying different scenarios, the students decided to produce a video called Say What?.”
The students had to identify who is bullied, who are the bullies, and then create characters and scenes to depict the incidents. Morong says while the video might be the ultimate product, the process enabled students to observe and document real-life bullying scenarios, making some of them aware for the first time the terrible power of bullying. The video was written by students, filmed by students, acted by students and now is being shown to student audiences.
Morong says the Drama Teachers Association of B.C. inspired her to take on the project, which was all done as an extra-curricular activity outside the regular school day. The association wanted to find out if theatre, drama or film-making were effective ways to get anti-racism and anti-discrimination messages into communities, especially rural and remote communities. Morong says there is a double-whammy with Say What? in that while audiences learn lessons from the video, its team of actors, producers, camera operators and writers learned them first while creating it.
Next week, (Oct. 24-26) Morong’s and Baker’s students will bring their video to a screening in Vancouver for the Drama Teachers’ Association conference. They hope the video spurs frank discussions among the teachers, as it did among a D.P. Todd student audience on its recent first showing.
“Many of the kids were just shocked to see the skits and didn’t realize kids could be so mean,” said one of the film’s young actors and producers. It was really interesting because after each segment on the video, there’s an opportunity to discuss the issue, to discuss how you would react in a similar situation, or learn how you should respond to bullying, if you are being bullied or if you know someone who is being bullied.
“It feels really good to know that we are doing something positive about bullying. We know it’s not just here D.P. Todd is a great school. We know it’s everywhere and we just need to make people more aware of it, and talk about how we should stand up to it.”
Physically or mentally challenged people, overweight people, short people, tall people, ethnic minorities, gay people, people of different religions or faiths all are subject to bullying. With the video Say What? as the tool, the students say they can bring the subject out into the open, and hopefully end up with a tolerant and bully-free society.
“Kids think it’s funny to pick on those that are different,” said Morong. “They want to tease and often don’t realize feelings are hurt.”
“When we have the breaks in between the video segments, we encourage students to speak up and say something when they hear discriminatory remarks,” she says.
“Don’t just let it go – someone needs to stand up on behalf of the victim and point out to the perpetrator that their comments are unacceptable. Not just teachers and adults, but young people must say something!”