Music with a message
Two teachers fight bullying in a creative way
Bullying is a common problem is schools worldwide. Recently, on Oct. 10, Canadian teen Amanda Todd made headlines after she committed suicide, just a month after asking for help in a YouTube video that also detailed her years of abuse at the hands of her peers at school and through social media. While Members of Parliament in Canada debate which anti-bullying measures to enact, most previous victims of bullying and parents of bullied children believe that prevention of bullying is the answer, rather than punishment of the guilty parties.
Meanwhile, in Norway, two teachers at Haga School in the municipality of Sola, Frode Skålevik and Helle-Ingunn Aaneland, have been working to prevent bullying in schools since 2006.
Since its premiere, their musical “Stopp! Ikke Mobb!” (literally, “Stop, Do Not Bully!”) has been performed at almost 200 schools across Norway. Its message against bullying and the creative way it is delivered, through music and drama, have made it a hit.
I spoke with Frode Skålevik, one of the musical’s creators, about the Stopp, Ikke Mobb Project.
Kelsey Larson: How long have you been a teacher, what do you teach, and why was bullying an important issue for you to address?
Frode Skålevik: I have been a teacher for almost 25 years, and teach students from 8 – 13 years old. I teach mostly math and music, but also swimming and science. I have, like most teachers, been concerned about bullying for quite a while. We know, of course, that this is something that can have serious consequences for those it affects, perhaps even for the rest of their lives.
KL: Where did you get the idea that combining music and drama might be a good motivation for students to work against bullying?
FS: A few years ago, there was an anti-bullying conference in Stavanger. Our school was to be visited by a number of “bigwigs” from the program who were doing work against bullying. Prior to this, I got the idea for the song “Stopp! Ikke Mobb!” Thus we sang the song for the first time when these people came to visit. They were so excited that we had to put the song on a CD, and it has since spread throughout Norway. My colleague, Helle-Ingunn Aaneland, is a skilled drama teacher. We directed school choir together, and had long thought that it might be fun to make a musical. When my song became so popular, I asked her to come up with a good idea for action around this song. She did, and wrote the manuscript, and together we wrote the rest of the songs of which the musical is composed.
We believe that bringing attention to bullying helps to counteract it. Students who have participated in the musical get put into the victim’s situation, and feel it in their body. This is the same feedback we get from other schools who have performed the musical.
KL: Clearly the musical has done very well. Did you ever expect the musical to become so popular? What kind of reactions do you get from schools who have performed the musical? Do they find it makes a difference when it comes to bullying?
FS: We never thought that the musical would become so popular. We hoped that maybe 10 schools would perform it, but now we are approaching 200. The reasons could be many: there aren¹t other musicals like this related to bullying, the songs are catchy, the message is simple. Moreover, it is not a “poor me” musical, but the attitude is “I do not want to be involved in this!”
Many schools use the musical, or parts of it, when they have a themed week on bullying. We have not advertised for the musical, but it has spread anyway. Now, “Stop Do not bully!” has been included in the new song book, “Songs of Norway.” So then, it has become even more well-known.
KL: Have you considered translating the musical into other languages and marketing it in other countries?
FS: Currently the musical is only in Norwegian. It could be fun to have it translated into English, but we have no concrete plans as of today. We would need to find some people who are good at translating songs first, so if you know of anyone let me know…the theme is equally applicable in the U.S., surely!
Find out more about the Stopp, Ikke Mobb Project at
This article originally appeared in the Oct. 19, 2012 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.