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Being an Online Upstander

May 12, 2020 | Melissa McCallihan

As we continue using online tools for communication, Brave cohort has been discussing how we can be an “upstander” online. This word “upstander” came up in our first discussions of our community covenant. This was our brainstorming from that discussion.

We referred to this chart in a recent meeting and the students started reframing their thinking to transfer these ideas to our current learning community online. One student shared her thinking:

“Upstander is someone who recognizes when something is wrong and acts to make it right. When an upstander sees or hears about someone being bullied they speak up. Being an upstander is being a hero or a leader.”

The general consensus of the community was that now more than ever we needed to work really hard to mind our words and actions.

We used this chart as a reminder of the difference between rude, mean and bullying.

We discussed that because we are online and “behind screens” so to speak, we cannot use nonverbal communication cues to make sure we are understanding how someone is feeling and how to interpret their words. We used the word “whatever” as an example. What tone you use when you say it aloud and what facial expression or body movements you use (eye roll) tells the receiver of this word what you are really saying. However, when you are just typing the word “whatever” in a chat, it has to be interpreted by the context. It can feel rude or mean. Many times the person who’s typing has no idea that is how it’s being received.

After this discussion, the Brave cohort community committed to be mindful of their words and actions, whether they are saying them or typing them, so that everyone is encouraged and supported. They covenanted to being upstanders for each other.

Melissa McCallihan

Teacher, Grade 6; Science Grades 6-8

Teaching children to take risks and fail well is important to Melissa McCallihan, who has taught for over 30 years. She believes children learn as much through their failures as they do through their successes. She celebrates both in her classroom. In collaboration with the middle school director, art teacher, and other fourth and fifth grade teachers, Mrs. McCallihan has been instrumental in developing the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) program, an extension of the Lower School’s Shared Space model. “STEAM is where students solve problems and sometimes get it wrong,” says Mrs. McCallihan when asked about risks and failing well. “Students need to learn how to do that with grace, and to try again with grit and determination.” Mrs. McCallihan currently teaches sixth through eighth grade science.

Mrs. McCallihan cares deeply about relationships with her colleagues, students, and families. She works hard to make and maintain connections on a personal and professional level. And follows the mantra “Worship God, Love All.”

When not at school, you can find Mrs. McCallihan searching out a fantastic restaurant or hidden sight to see in New York City.

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