As a parent, one of the hardest things about your child attending school is the reality that other kids can be bullies. You raise your young child to be express his or her unique self- to create, to explore, and to dream.
And kids feel free to express themselves… until a peer shuts them down. A negative reaction from classmates can be enough to squash a child’s courage to stand out from the crowd- sometimes permanently.
A boy was bullied by classmates for the makeshift University of Tennessee logo that he created to wear on his t-shirt at school, and UT has officially adopted his design for their new t-shirts.
It was “College Colors Day” at Altamonte Elementary School in Altamonte Springs, FL, and one (unnamed) student decided to create his own design to represent his very favorite college team, the University of Tennessee’s (UT) Volunteers.
First of all, you’ve got to give this kid props just for putting in his own effort to prepare for a school dress-up day. My kids’ school has many of these type of “costume” days, & it usually requires a last-minute scramble to acquire the items needed for that day’s theme.
But this young man was clearly on the ball. He was thrilled at the prospect of representing for his beloved UT Volunteers, but unfortunately didn’t own any college apparel. Rather than let that deter him, he decided to make his own!
The boy told his teacher that he owned an orange t-shirt -UT’s school color. His plan was to create his own “UT” logo on paper and to pin it on the front of his orange shirt.
Most adults would be impressed by his dedication. His teacher, Laura Synder, felt the same. As Snyder explained in her Facebook post about the incident:
So when the day finally arrived, he was SO EXCITED to show me his shirt.
I was impressed that he took it one step further to make his own label.
But sadly, not everyone was impressed. In fact, several of the boy’s classmates made fun of his sign at lunchtime.
As parents, we know that the crappy-kid-stuff goes down at lunchtime; it’s a jungle out there! We also know how devastating this kind of mean teasing can be for a young child.
And the boy was devastated.
After lunch, he came back to my room, put his head on on his desk and was crying.
UGH. Just reading that makes me want to bear-hug this sweet, heartbroken little boy, while simultaneously wanting to throat-punch the mean girls that ridiculed him.
But here’s where good teachers use their gift to transform the lives of their students:
Feeling heartbroken for the boy, teacher Laura Snyder planned to buy him a UT shirt, & created a public Facebook post to request assistance from anyone with UT connections to perhaps “make it a little extra special”.
University of Tennessee officials caught wind of Synder’s request. And they hooked their loyal fan up…. BIG TIME.
UT sent the student a huge care package crammed full of official UT swag & goodies, which he & Snyder opened in the school’s main office. In her Facebook post, she said that:
He proudly put on the jersey and one of the many hats in the box.
All who saw had either goosebumps or tears while we explained that he had inspired and touched the lives of so many people.
And the really cool part?
The package was then brought up to Snyder’s classroom, where the bounty of swag was shared, compliments of the student.
When we brought the box upstairs to share with the rest of my class they were surprised as well!!
How you like them apples, mean girls??
Then the fun part set in.. my student got to pass out UT swag to his classmates. And as Snyder described, his classmates were not only grateful for his generosity, but amazed that UT thought highly enough of him to send the swag in the first place:
it made this teacher so proud to see the kids congratulating my student. High fives, hugs, pats on the back could be seen from the kids.
But there’s more… here’s the BEST part.
UT was determined to use the boy’s story as an example of how to slay the bullies.
University of Tennessee officials announced on Twitter that they would be using the boy’s original “UT” pencil sketch as the logo for an official UT t-shirt.
— UT Knoxville (@UTKnoxville) September 6, 2019
Laura Snyder updated her Facebook post to thank everyone for the outpouring of support that the boy’s story received.
She also said that not only was the experience a unifying one for her entire class, but that the boy himself was changed by the experience:
When I told him that his design was being made into a real shirt and people wanted to wear it, his jaw dropped.
He had a big smile on his face, walked taller, and I could tell his confidence grew today!
It’s truly a heartwarming story on so many levels: the kindness of a teacher. The dedication of social media and college officials in affirming the boy’s efforts to create his own special shirt.
It’s also a powerful lesson for would-be bullies that letting others shine their own special light without ridicule can be very rewarding.
9/6/19 – UT really outdid themselves?!! I was so excited to surprise my student today!! I’m not even sure I can put…