I Remember…..Personal Reflections and Professional Perspectives on Bullying
Bullying is a critical concern in schools across the nation. Every member of a school community should be educated on possible sources and signs of bullying, as well as resources to stomp out this devastating social-emotional student challenge. Thank goodness we now have powerful, accessible teaching tools based on research and science, designed to target the national bullying epidemic.
As I evolved in my teaching profession, I gained insight and experience to guide many 6th grade students along their social-emotional paths. But, as I reflect on my personal perspectives regarding this national crisis, I’m also sad to say (with no excuses - only honesty) I remember…
- A whole 5th grade school year that D. chased my friend and me home with continual verbal threats to beat us up. To this day, I don’t know why he always did that or why he didn’t like us. To this day, I don’t know why we didn’t stand up to him or ask anyone for help. To this day, I can visualize the street, how we would zig-zag across to avoid his threats and taunts, and race breathless through my back door to safety.
- The family that moved in next door with four kids who were “different” and didn’t seem to quite “fit in” for neighborhood fun. I remember feeling embarrassed that M. lived next door to me and how I desperately hid that fact from peers at school. When others ruthlessly picked on him during class, I’d observe on the sidelines and consider myself lucky to avoid all interaction with M.
- Sharing an assigned locker in junior high with J. who was “weird” and shy and oh so, verbally abused. She kept her head down and didn’t make eye contact or speak to me. Not once did I have her back or stand up for her when others ridiculed her hair and thick glasses. Never did I speak to her during or after those two years of daily shared school space.
- Years later, as a classroom teacher, I remember days of “kids will be kids” and cliques that were accepted as part of our school culture. I remember days of early elementary conflict resolution training for dealing with bullying behaviors and interruptions to the learning environment. I remember calling parents to report bullying behaviors on both sides of a difficult situation and feeling a pit in my stomach about the need to do more. I remember feeling frustrated when I witnessed outright bullying in my classroom - and even more infuriated when I discovered it happened (all-too-often) just outside my sight-line or out of earshot. And I remember seeking support when I felt a classroom bullying situation was out of control and I really needed help from the higher-ups.
I set out to personally reflect upon my own bullying stories, and in sharing them, I can’t help wonder if you are judging me as inept or weak, mean or insensitive. I want to believe you can relate to my stories. Odds are scary high that we’ve all been both victims and perpetrators of bullying in our lifetimes. Hard truths and honest self-reflection should lead us to ask - “Now what?”
Here’s what! I propose each educator gets a perspective and makes a personal plan to counteract bullying. Consider these questions:
- What is the ideal culture and climate for your classroom?
- How can you raise your radar to recognize bullying in your classroom or in your school?
- What does bullying look, sound, feel like in your classroom?
- What are your explicit teaching lessons on bullying?
- What support systems are in place in your school?
- How can you empower upstanders or allies in your school or classroom?
- What are some strategies for peer support in bullying prevention?
- What communication can you provide parents?
- What consequences will there be for bullying in your classroom?
- What curriculum resources and teaching tools can you use to meet this professional and instructional responsibility?
We can learn federal laws or state mandates on anti-bullying policies (they do exist, though sadly not in every state). Policies & Laws | StopBullying.gov We can decide to make a difference and individually support all students with daily dedicated protection of everyone’s right to feel safe and honored at school.
Take a quick second and Google search “Bullying Prevention” - 4,150,000 hits! That’s an abundance of supports ready for one teacher to tap into! Here are my favorite five links filled with resources to begin or expand your work with bullying prevention:
- Pacer Organization - Bullying Statistics - check these stats for more conviction.
- Stomp Out Bullying Campaign - plan for October National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month.
- Kid Power.Org - excellent resources for kids to engage in bullying prevention.
- PBIS Resources - PBIS school-wide resources for bullying prevention.
- National Association for School Psychologists - powerful school frameworks, programs, and strategies.
All of us are part of this universal problem - we must each become involved in the solution. Start where you are today - take a step forward this school year!
Looking for additional strategies for reducing bullying in your school? Enroll in Learners Edge Course 712: Sticks and Stones: The No Bully Zone where you will explore the widening definitions of bullying, methods of gathering information about bullying and climate directly from students, appropriate processes for identifying and reporting, numerous examples of effective anti-bullying programs and policies, and ways to protect and help victims of school bullying.