October 5, 2011

Talking about Bullying

Bullies come in all forms.  Bullies are good kids with no confidence who want some power or adults who have no confidence and too much "power." What do we do with a bully? I guess a better question is. . . what do we do if a child is bullying?

Honestly, I have no answer. Actually, like many of the problems parents and teachers face today, there is no one answer. We look to principals for answers, behavior specialists, school guidance counselors, but the truth is we are all just going through trial and error until something clicks. 

What I do know is where to start. The word power comes to mind when thinking of my favorite child who has bullying problem. Often when one bully leaves the class, another emerges. Why is this? Because the balance of power is disrupted. . . and they see an opportunity to be in charge, to lead the social circle, and in some cases to be cool (or at least not picked on.) 

So how do we redistribute this pattern of power? If you've ever been in the corporate world you know the business model for most companies is a triangle (with the power held by a few at the top.)

 Usually the top is where the bully is and everyone else subserviant. How do we inverse that triangle? How do we put the majority of the kids in a position of power to take charge of their class and education? 

I want to share a book that might open up this conversation and the power issue that kids are so reluctant to talk about. 

I'm thinking of reading the words of this book. Then having them create an illustration inspired by the story. Here is part of the story. . . "One was a quiet color. He enjoyed looking up at the sky, floating on the waves, and on days he felt daring. . . splashing in rain puddles. Every once in a while he wished he could be more Sunny like Yellow. Or bright like Green. More regal like Purple. Or outgoing like Orange. But overall, he liked being Blue. . . . except when he was with Red. Red was a hot head. " What grade level do you think this book is for?

Besides talking about it with an adult and each other, anonymity is important if we are ever going to make real change. Can we create a place of anonymity? Can we have students take back their power and stand up for each other and themselves in a real way? Can we do this through art? Can we do this through collaboration in art? These are all questions I am going to be exploring next week. Let me know what you think or if you can commiserate!


Phyl said...

Oh my. So much to think about, but I like the sound of the book, and am thinking maybe 2nd/3rd grade? Not sure I'm going to look for it.

As to all your other questions - I need time to think about it all, and see how our anti-bullying program works out.

About our anti-bullying program (the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program) - on our opening day of school, the day before the kids arrived, we spent a full day in training and got LOTS of handouts. EVERYONE in the district was trained, not just the teachers - including custodians, bus drivers, EVERYONE. I think it will be good that everyone is on board, but the training was already almost a month ago, and now we have the official "kickoff" tomorrow. I hope I can remember all of what we are supposed to do when there is an incidence of bullying. There's a lot of calling home (when do we have time for that?) but the biggest responsibility falls to the homeroom/classroom teachers, as they are required to have I think weekly "class meetings". There's huge commitment to make the program work. The biggest question is whether the administration will be able to handle the follow-through. Past history makes me say it won't happen but I hope they prove me wrong.

Tomorrow has me worried anyhow. To begin with, EVERYONE will be wearing their new T-shirts tomorrow for assemblies and for Open House. They say SUFO which means Stand Up For Others. As I sit here typing, mine (which I got this afternoon) is in the dryer, and I'm about to do some last-minute alterations. It's too tight on my hips. I feel bullied being forced to wear a shirt that doesn't flatter me for tomorrow's big night Open House. I know MANY other teachers are feeling the same. Some are mildly annoyed, some are downright hostile. The shirts are dark hunter green with yellow-orange-y lettering. Not the typical Open House fashion.

My biggest concern is that tomorrow's kickoff of the program may be a fiasco. Everyone, parents, kids Pre-K - 12 have all been invited to a kickoff assembly. There's no way we can fit them all in the auditorium, so I'm predicting a move to the gym, where nobody will hear the speakers, and the little kids will run around. I hope I'm wrong, but I'll keep you posted!

The dryer stopped - time to get out scissors and needle/thread and try to fix up this T-shirt!

Christie - Fine Lines said...

Phyl - Good luck on the alterations and embellishments!! We have a new program, too. I went to the staff development for it this morning. No T-shirts yet!! We actually have been using a program out of UCLA (called Cool Tools - for the past 6 or 7 years, I think) that has been a good start in helping kids stand up for themselves and express their feelings. This new program seems to go a step further to extinguish the bullying. Hope it is helpful, but we'll have to see. It also has a community meeting component for regular classrooms. We are trying to get 100% buy-in from everyone to participate. Again, we'll see.

Erica - the book sounds interesting. Thanks for sharing. I am going to pass it on the the committee in charge of PD for bullying.

sadie said...

Hi Erica,
I had heard of the book before (it was on my wish list on Amazon) and also the book "Zero" by Otoshi as well. ("Zero" incorporates a math component very cleverly.) I am struggling with how to come up with an engaging project to incorporate these heavy ideas. I did find a website that had discussion questions and an activity linked to both of the books--http://www.tangledball.com/one.html
I also found a post about this anti-bully project
"the Peace, Love and Hope Project"
--batik quilt squares sewn into a large quilt and exhibited worldwide.
So much to think about and challenging to incorporate into an already bursting curriculum. But yet so worthwhile.
By the way, I read both books to my preschool aged sons and they absolutely loved them. I am thinking of k-2 as the target. Hope you post whatever you do end up doing with your kids.
Thanks again for always sharing your ideas and inspiration.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I just saw this book at B&N and read through it. I think it would be great for third grade and up. This seems to be the time when students are starting to explore their relationships with classmates and it would probably make a good impression on them. We need to do anything we can to encourage positive roles for students these days. Thanks for sharing. Cynthia S.

Unknown said...

Thanks Cynthia, I think 3rd would be good too. It might be just the level for third. I'll let you know how it's received. I'm going to bring it to the media (library) specialist for maybe a collaboration?

Hannah- Art.Paper.Scissors.Glue! said...

I'm so glad I came across this post. "One" is definitely something I will be investing in. When I "Amazoned" it, I noticed the author also has a story, "Zero," which in the description says is appropriate for grades K - 2 if you were interested.

Bullying is such a national epidemic now, I can talk about it for DAYS. I think my husband is even a little sick of hearing me discuss it. It's almost sad because, at least, from my experience, if you are an adult who does not work with children on the level like we do, they seem to have no idea how serious this is and brush it off. I always hear the, "oh, it's not that bad," or "we were getting bullied when we were kids, they're just being kids," or pretty much any other excuse. So it makes you wonder, if adults are the people children are supposed to confide in and they respond like that, I can't even imagine what they must feel like with the burden of being bullied.

I don't know, I take bullying so seriously because I was teased A LOT when I was a kid. Being from a typical suburban neighborhood and one of the EXTREMELY few students, if not the only one at the time, who wasn't white, I was made fun of a lot for being different. I was stronger though, and overall positive, unlike many of the bullied today. Also, Jamey, the recent suicide story was a local student here, which really hit home.

Again, I can really go on about this for hours. I guess the first step we can do is make everyone much more aware of how serious this is and take advantage of our positions and become the role models we need to be.

Handmade Design said...

This is an awesome Post! We are doing Anti- Bully Bully Posters this week. I am already sad about some of my kids stories.