From ordinary to extraordinary, Oaks carry message of love to their classmates

Stand for the Silent
On Tuesday, Jan. 27, Norfolk Collegiate’s Middle and Upper Schools hosted an anti-bullying presentation by Kirk Smalley from the Stand for the Silent foundation. Smalley, whose 11-year-old son committed suicide after years of harassment, spoke with raw emotion about his experience. Though a difficult conversation, Smalley asked our students to show their support of him if they saw that he was having a difficult time speaking by simply holding up their thumb, pointer finger and pinky – the universal symbol for “I love you.”

Within minutes of telling his story, Smalley began to falter. Without hesitation, our Oaks began raising their hands in support. As he spoke, students sat in silence, taking in the story of his loss and that of many others families. Before leaving, our students accepted a challenge by Smalley to help spread the message that bullying must stop. 

The assembly was followed by teachers and advisees candidly discussing in smaller groups the issue of bullying. “It takes a special group of teachers who can put themselves at the center of such an emotional discussion and handle it with such grace and professionalism,” reflected Headmaster Scott Kennedy of the day. 

A moment of clarity
Later that evening, a moment of pride occurred on the basketball courts of another school. It was a typical TCIS event, with Oaks and competing fans alike packed into the other school’s gym. “The game ebbed and flowed with intense energy and exhaustive lows no different than any other game this year,” recounted Kai Evans, Norfolk Collegiate’s acting director of athletics. However, what happened next was remarkable. 

During a moment of athleticism and competition, the opposing team demonstrated less than desirable sportsmanship. However, it was our students’ response that made the ordinary game extraordinary. 

“I saw a group of students, more specifically, The Treehouse, standing in unison – as one – proud and complimentary of our team. The way that The Treehouse, this contingent of young men and women, chose to celebrate this wonderful victory – by puncturing the humid air of the gym with one arm, an arm proudly displaying the international Stand for the Silent hand sign against bullying that Mr. Smalley had educated our community with just hours earlier,” recalled Evans. “As I looked to the court, I noticed some of our own players demonstrating the same hand gesture as well! This group forfeited the opportunity for smack talk and negative comments. This group chose to embrace one another, our community and our family in a hand sign and in silence.”  

Special was how junior Jimmy Hurley described the event. Jimmy was one of the basketball players during the game who experienced the event. “It was something that was just in the moment,” he said. “It’s not typical. It’s not something that you would see at a game. And the other team did acknowledge it, but they didn’t understand it.”

There are moments in the life of a school that define it and shape it into more than just walls and hallways. This was one of those moments. “This past week held a convergence of events that could not have been predicted,” recalled Kennedy. “While eclectic, these events make our school great.”