Bullying is a national problem that can have extreme consequences. A new manual called Stand Tall is designed for educators and helps them learn how to approach the topic with kids. The author of this innovative teaching aid, Suzanne Peck, joins us on Chicago Tonight at 7:00 pm.
Chicago Tonight spoke with Rob Lindley, a local actor who helped develop the exercises for Stand Tall and will lead teacher training programs to show teachers how to use improv in their classrooms.
Can you tell me a little bit about your background?
I’m a Chicago actor. I actually moved to Chicago because it’s the center of improv for the whole universe and I wanted to study improv. I spent time hanging around at Second City and Improv Olympic. My regular acting career took off and I don’t do much improv now, but I value that education above everything else. I call that my grad school.
How do you get involved with Stand Tall?
I got involved initially because Suzanne [Peck] and I were working on using improv for corporate training. We would put together actors to come in and do different scenarios. So when she talked to me about the bullying project, I said, “what about using improv in the classroom to get the kids on their feet, and role-playing and playing games?” So that’s where it went. It was my idea, along with Suzanne’s, to use improv in the classroom. And because she was based in California, I hooked her up with my actor friends there who also helped develop the curriculum. A dozen or so California area schools have gone through the program.
What tools can students learn from this anti-bullying program?
I’ve always thought that the best improv actors in town, what makes them successful, is that they are excellent listeners, they are supportive of the other people on stage, and they are able to make quick decisions and think on their feet. You are in the moment and listening, so you can respond right there with an honest, true, emotional response. It makes you a better actor and a better person. These are great life skills.
Kids start with basics of we are going to respect and listen to each other. Every idea is a good idea. We are going to build on someone’s idea. It’s the philosophy of “yes, and…” If someone says there’s a boat in the room, you don’t say, “no there’s not.” You say, “yes, and the boat is purple.” Building on ideas and all those things help make people good citizens, and teaching them quick thinking and decisiveness helps give them strategies to combat bullying.
It helps you to stop judging your own actions and yourself. The less judging you are of yourself, the less you are judging the people around you. So you are diffusing that energy that makes people bullies. You may not be the victim or the bully, but are you a bystander? Are you in the room watching bullying happen? We give them strategies of different things they can say as bystanders. Students should be in the mindset of “this is what I should say and I’m going to say it.” It’s useful, it’s relevant right now, and it’s fun.
What are you currently working on as far as your acting career?
I am about to go into rehearsals for James Joyce’s The Dead at the Court Theatre. And last season, I starred in Angels in America at the Court Theatre as well.
Watch a preview of the video-based educational program that educates teachers and students in Grades 4-6 about how to respond to disrespectful behavior.
The program is being launched with the Chicago Archdiocese of Catholic Schools on October 22 at St. Raymond in Mount Prospect. It will be the first Catholic school in the country to launch Stand Tall.