Shields Elementary first-graders learn tolerance, respect (Video)

Feb. 11, 2012 at midnight
Updated Feb. 11, 2012 at 8:12 p.m.

Even without saying a word, they said so much.

First-grade students at Shields Elementary School incited sniffles from their audience with their rendition of the country song "Don't Laugh At Me."

But it wasn't their high-pitched sincerity that resonated with their parents and siblings. It was the way the students manifested the meaning of the song, by using sign language to communicate a message about respect and tolerance.

"It's about caring. People who are hurt, you should always care about them. People laugh at them, and they get sad," said one student, William Boehl.

The first-grade class has been learning the song and the sign language accompanying it since December. It's part of a "Don't Laugh At Me" curriculum that counselor Tammy Boehl brought into the school.

Along with a new language, students have been learning about kindness and fairness, about how it feels to be teased and what to do if they see someone being bullied. They were set to debut their skills later in the year, but the students had worked so hard, they were ready for primetime at Tuesday's PTO meeting.

"I've been practicing every day I got home. I've even been practicing not on school days," said first-grader Vincint Vasquez.

After the performance, Vincint, William and their friend Nathaniel Rivera were high-energy following their moment on stage.

"I was about to explode with happiness. No, really, I'm not kidding," Vincint said.

The students said they were excited to not only learn sign language and perform for their families, but to also put into practice the lessons they'd been taught.

"If one of my friends were bullied, I'd get with them because bullies don't like a big group of people," William said.

Then bullies certainly wouldn't have liked the class of Shields first-graders, united, reminding others through voice and sign that "In God's eyes we're all the same. Someday we'll all have perfect wings."

Clapping rang throughout the room, as the students took a bow and began to walk off stage. Then, a man yelled from the back.


Without hesitation, the students obliged.



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