Students learn early that bullying not to be tolerated

DOWNEY - The message at last Thursday's assembly on bullying held at Ward Elementary School and sponsored by Downey Federal Credit Union was: bullying, like lying, is inherently bad.The medium used for the most part to reach the prehensile minds of the student body of K-3 kids (split into two groups) was pantomime. The invited speaker, Cary Trivanovich, boasted 30 years worth of experience as a performer, theatre director and humorist, with pantomime as his main calling card; he has appeared in colleges, churches, theatre festivals practically in every state (as well as on TV) and cruise ships around the world. Because he was the pioneer speaker and for 10 years the only one who spoke against bullying, he has since laid claim to the sobriquet, "the nation's top school speaker on bullying." The approach used by DFCU Thursday seemed to work. As many teachers would testify, there's probably nothing more difficult than grabbing-and holding-the attention of five to six-year old kids (they composed the first group). But Trivanovich's (he's of Yugoslav descent) antics had the kids laughing, politely at first because their teachers, their principal (Jennifer Robbins), and the district superintendent herself (Dr. Wendy Doty) were present. Then the laughter got louder and louder until someone would just let out a shout, eliciting still more laughter and giggles and lusty claps. Amid the din, some kid would yell, "It's magic!" Possessing an elongated face like Fred Astaire's, Trivanovich used his rubbery face, expressive body language, and an array of skillful poses and postures to project a gamut of emotions: surprise, joy, triumph, bafflement, helplessness, sadness. Making funny faces, wiping tears from, and crossing, his eyes were part of the repertoire. His muscle control included raising, first, the right eyebrow, then the left. His characterizations included that of a toddler as well as that of an old man walking by. He pretended to lean on something, pull a rope, drive a car, drink from a cup, stand stiff as a mannequin in a shopping mall-to good effect. He even delicately balanced-for several seconds--a dollar bill on his nose! And when he moonwalked a la Michael Jackson, there was a burst of oohs and aahs. There was no doubt he had honed his craft through practice, lots of practice. "I'm having so much fun," he would say. "Are you having fun, too?" (using the audience participation technique). When asked later if he knew or met Marcel Marceau, the acknowledged French master of pantomime ('acting without words'), he said yes, he trained under him in Hollywood for three weeks a while back. Yes, he said, he has also studied the techniques of Charlie Chaplin, Red Skelton, and other masterful practitioners of the art. The pantomiming went on for about 30 minutes. Then it was time to articulate the message. "When I was a kid," he said, "I walked alone, I ate lunch alone and had no friends. I had no self-esteem." "At school, I was the one the other kids made fun of," he continued. "They made me feel worthless. I did a lot of pretending then." "Then some older kids took notice and encouraged me to believe in myself. They encouraged me to act and perform, to build my confidence. So I did. To make the story short, I found out I loved performing, and before I even graduated from high school, I was doing stand-up pantomime at several venues." Pointing to three chairs he set down in a row, Trevanovich said: "Sitting on the first chair are people who encourage you and build you up: you remember these people. On the second chair sit people you don't know and don't really care about: you don't remember these people. The third chair belongs to those who make fun of you or bully you: they are the mean and selfish people. You remember them, but you don't really want to." "Bullies say mean things on purpose," he added. "Bullying is being selfish. Bullying hurts the heart." The assembly on bullying is precautionary, said Robbins, as there is no discernible sign yet of bullying incidents on campus. The potential is there, though, she said, and "We're preparing for anything." (DFCU had stated that bullying was a 'topic of great concern.')

********** Published: June 2, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 7