Bullying takes many forms, including intimidation in classrooms by peers, or at times, by teachers. Intentional or not, when students don't feel safe to participate in the classroom, their learning is severely impaired. Even the most stellar curriculum cannot get through when students are worried about negative reactions when they participate in class.
As elementary level teachers, we are charged not just with teaching academics, but teaching social skills as well. "Ignore bullies and tell an adult if you feel threatened," "Don't talk to strangers," "Treat people the way you want to be treated." You're probably familiar with phrases similar to these if you teach the younger grades. Young children are still learning the norms of social behavior and how to handle strangers.
Approximately 32 percent of students report being bullied at school. Bullied students are more likely to take a weapon to school, get involved in physical fights, and suffer from anxiety and depression, health problems, and mental health problems. They suffer academically (especially high-achieving black and Latino students). And research suggests that schools where students report a more severe bullying climate score worse on standardized assessments than schools with a better climate.
There's nothing funny about bullying, but appealing to students' comic sensibilities might help open discussions about this serious subject. That's the idea behind the Stop Bullying: Speak Up Comic Challenge. During October, students and teachers can join a nationwide dialogue about bullying prevention that will play out through the engaging medium of comic strips.
Caring emerges from relationships in which people are given the time and space to understand deeply what they are doing and why it matters. And the best way to promote a commitment to an intervention is through conversations about it with people who are going to be involved with implementation or implementation support.
"December 7, 1941 -- a day that will live in infamy." So said President Franklin Delano Roosevelt about the attack on Pearl Harbor. What about Sept. 11, 2001? I propose we call this, "A day leading to a national month of inspiration and gratitude."
The driving force behind my work is a commitment to social justice, ensuring that all students get what they need in our public schools regardless of race, class, ethnicity, home language, ability, gender, and sexual orientation.
Now that we're heading into summer, it's a perfect time to start planning a pledge for your students. I used to be skeptical about the value of pledges by students, particularly around things like harassment, intimidation, and bullying (HIB). But I have changed my mind. The new school year is a time to consider any such pledges, and now is the time to think through your position on the topic.