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After returning from winter break with a renewed commitment to my students, my school, and my community, I’m back and ready for GLSEN’s No Name Calling Week, which this year is January 18-22! The week is meant to encourage dialogue in school communities about ways to eliminate bullying and name-calling. Here are four tips for educators to make the most of the week:

1. Let the students take the wheel

GSA sponsors can assign club leadership to draft a proposal for how to celebrate GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week. Students can get together to plan a few school-wide events, building their leadership and organizational skills.

At McKinley High, our GSA student leadership team will be meeting to plan local activities for No Name-Calling Week.  I give the students a list of suggested events from the GLSEN website, and they pick and choose what they want to do and place it on a weekly calendar. I have a special student position, publicity coordinator, who makes fliers, which saves me time while building a student’s skills!

2. Choose quality over quantity

For a small class or GSA, or with a difficult administration, it may be best to focus on hosting one or two meaningful events for students rather than trying to coordinate an activity every day. Using GLSEN’s comprehensive document on planning for No Name-Calling Week is a great way for educators to pick quality events.  

At our school, students write creative poetry and short stories about their experiences with bullying and name-calling. The event, which started out a few years ago as a low-key meeting, has now evolved into a coffee-shop style production and is the signature event of our week.

3. Organize a social media campaign

Students love social media. This week, students can make something meaningful out of it. A class or club can develop a Twitter or Instagram account, where they can post photos throughout the week. Here at McKinley, I have the students meet after school, take photos with their anti-bullying fliers and signs, and then post them on social media using the hashtags #celebratekindness and #nncw16.

Organizing a social media campaign is one of the best ways to gain visibility and take a stand against bullying.  Last year, our GSA even partnered with the mass media department to create their own Public Service Announcement.

4. Connect to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is the first day of GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week, and the lesson plan We’re All Different But We’re All Alike is easily aligned to discussions on how we treat people of different races, religions, languages, sexual orientations, and gender expressions.

I personally developed a lesson focusing on the work of Bayard Rustin, a gay man who served as Dr. King’s advisor. Unfortunately, most students are not taught about who he was or what he accomplished.  As an educator of a diverse student body, I find great importance in celebrating and teaching about these historical figures.

However you plan to celebrate GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week this year, remember that all students will benefit from the message of acceptance. Whether you’re a teacher, student, guidance counselor, coach, librarian or bus driver, show you care by organizing a week of activities at your school aimed at ending name-calling once and for all.

Desiree Raught was GLSEN’s 2015 Educator of the Year and is an educator at McKinley Tech High School in Washington, D.C.