If you put a few hundred adolescents together in a relatively confined space for months on end, hormones will rage, insecurities will be magnified, developing personalities will clash, and bullying will happen. I see it every day at the middle school where I teach, and I know that what I see in my classroom and the hallways is only part of the story.
Cortney Elder, a Phys. Ed. teacher at William Penn Middle School in Bucks County, PA, sees it, too. He also experienced it when he was younger. When the teachers were asked to participate in the making of an anti-bullying video (below), Cortney thought back to the times he was picked on in middle school. He remembered a conversation he had about it with his father and the advice his father gave him. Cortney wanted to pass the same advice on to the students, so he did it the best way he knows how – through music.
Cortney’s song, “You’ll See”, communicates the message that things will get better. It’s a message that students have heard a million times. Cortney knew that this time the message had to be delivered in a way that was meaningful to the students. It had to be conveyed in a way that would make them listen. For that to happen, the students need to hear his song from the voice of other students, both victims and the bullies themselves.
With the help of Music teacher Joseph D’Alicandro and local composer Joe Mass, the music Cortney wrote for the guitar was transposed for keyboards, violins, horns, bass, drums, and other instruments the students would play. Using input from students, scenes showing the bullying that takes place at school on a daily basis were brought to life for the small screen under the direction of Special Education teacher Jeffrey Kobasa. Cortney received a grant from the Pennsbury Education Foundation and worked with student musicians in a recording studio over their Winter Break to lay down the music and vocals. In the early Spring, students that were hand-picked by the staff to act in the music video that would accompany the song.
On the evening of Monday, May 14, 2012, the music video for “You’ll See” was released on YouTube. By the end of the week the video had over 8500 hits and was viewed in 26 different countries. The students and teachers involved in this project all expressed their surprise at how the community embraced the final product. While the students know that bullying is a problem that won’t go away immediately, they share the belief that their efforts were a success if just one student hears the message in Mr. Elder’s song and thinks before they act.