Bullying is a major problem in schools. The more that kids understand about bullying – particularly that it is not acceptable to bully or to stand by when someone else is bullying and that bullying shouldn’t be endured in silence – the more likely we are to address the issue. I listened with horror when an acquaintance told me that at her child’s school there was no policy on bullying because there was no incidence of bullying. It’s not nice to tell someone that they clearly have their head in the sand, is it?
Like any message that we want to get through to kids, the more ways that it is presented, the better. There are lots of books, short films and online information about bullying however until recently, I hadn’t come across any music.
Big Bully, part of the Recess Music Best Foot Forward Series, is a compilation of songs that is aimed at encouraging and educating children about positive behaviour with a particular emphasis on bullying.
This is not the sort of album you would listen to from beginning to end in one sitting. Rather, pick and choose the tracks that are relevant. For example, the opening song, Bully Bubba, describes the typical playground bully, the type who picks on kids younger and weaker than himself (or herself as the case may be). Helpfully, this country and western-styled ditty includes some advice – “When you ignore a bully, their power goes away” as well as advising telling a grown-up about the bully.
I particularly like the tracks One and Only Me by Janet’s Planet and I Can Make a Difference by J. P. Taylor & The Academics. Both songs are about self validation and personal resilience but delivered in different styles – a gentle ballad and an upbeat acoustic pop song respectively.
The standout is Leslie Bixler’s Can You Imagine?. The focus is on empathy and Bixler sings about all sorts of situations that may encourage kids to see things from another point of view – “You’re n the playground by yourself, and everyone is playing with someone else…How would you feel if that was you? Is there something you could say? Something you could do?”
The album changes pace with Lyle Cogen’s No Put Downs. It’s funky, it’s eighties-style rap and it has loads of kid-appeal with a simple and memorable message – don’t put people down.
There are two tracks from Babyology favourites – Time Out by The Hipwaders and the sensational Enemies by Milkshake. I’m a huge fan of Milkshake and in particular this song. It captures the challenges of friendships perfectly – “My best friend, I think we’ll always be, Such good friends, You mean the world to me, But there times… I think we’re enemies.” Remember that awkward stage in about grade three when friendships had a tenuous quality and one mean word could shake your world? That’s what Enemies is all about.
The album closes with Wishing Well by kindie-folk-royalty Renee & Jeremy. It’s a sweet, mellow song full of wishes of peace, love and happiness.