Sticking Your Neck Out! – The Giraffe Project


Doug Hoogerland, Principal

Roguewood Elementary


I remember crying the day my grandpa died when I was about eight years old.  As the funeral was ending, the priest said these words, “Now, please join us in celebrating Harold’s life.” I knew people were coming over after the funeral, but no way did I think we were going to “celebrate.”  I was expecting everyone to cry like I was.  When my mom explained the meaning behind those puzzling words, I understood immediately.

For some reason I got to thinking about my grandfather after hearing about the Boston Marathon which led me to the question; Why is it when something tragic happens like the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings or the Boston Marathon bombing so much attention is placed on the negative? I do realize the need to attempt to understand the meaning behind such atrocities; to hopefully learn ways to prevent similar scenarios.  But does this have to be the centerpiece of the issue?  Great people, caring people, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, friends, lost their lives! First responders and caring bystanders ran to help.  These are the ones who should be the centerpiece. These are the people we should be “celebrating.”

Schools across the country have been working hard to improve or implement anti-bullying procedures.  Rockford Public Schools has brought in experts on the issue of bullying. We have trained each staff member on techniques to help prevent bullying.  We have implemented new anti-bullying policies and have been sharing this information with our parents and students. I realize this is important and I will continue to fight against bullying, but like the people who ran to help the injured and wounded in the Boston Marathon bombings and the people who died trying to protect the children at Sandy Hook Elementary, people like my grandpa, let’s not forget to celebrate the good things that are happening every day.

This is why at nearly every Rockford elementary school we work to recognize students who are demonstrating helping behaviors. At Roguewood our students and teachers watch for students “sticking their neck out.” We call it our Giraffe Project. Located in our tower area outside the library we have a ceramic giraffe and a box where students can place notes describing the great things they noticed another student doing around school. We read these notes and recognize the students involved. I love seeing the kids turn from looking for poor behavior to watching for helping behavior.

When and if your child returns home from school and begins telling you about “the kid who got in trouble” or the “bully in school,” redirect him/her by asking, “Tell me one good thing that happened today first.” It shouldn’t be hard to identify one because GREAT things are happening EVERY day!


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