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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation


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I am a mom, a full-time student, and author of a blog called Kindergarten Bullies. I started the blog because my daughter, in pre-K, came home telling a story about her peers actively excluding a girl in her class. She had mentioned other incidents before. I started researching bullying in kindergarten. It turns out from the studies I have found that its prevalence is similar to later grades. This shocked me although, I remember being bullied in kindergarten. I write the blog to increase awareness about bullying, but specifically about bullying in kindergarten. I have a lot of opinions, some not alaways popular. The reason I post here is I would like to hear from educators of smaller children what their response is to bullying. How do they handle it? Is it a problem in the classroom? Or grades 1-3 do you feel some behaviors could be changed if there was increased priming and focus on social learning at early ages. I would love to hear from you. I will not share your information on my blog, unless you say it is alright. I only mentioned it in the interest of full disclosure. I would like to know for my own interest what your experiences are. Thanks for reading and responding! I know teaching is incredibly hard and I thank you for all you do!

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Gaetan Pappalardo's picture
Gaetan Pappalardo
Teacher, Author, Guitar––Word.

Bob, I totally agree with you. I'm not stating that's what I want from education. I'm just adding info to the discussion. Yes, we can all get along. I have an open door policy in my classroom. Come one, come all. Let's work together and educate our kids to form a more perfect World. Right? The sad truth is that government is pushing their Hegemonic policies on the parents, which pits them against teachers, instead of with them. The government fills parents with hate by blaming the terrible economy on teacher greed. (Well, in N.J.).

Thanks for the conversation. BOb. Conversation is always productive.

Shaina's picture

Beth, I also agree that bullying is a huge problem! I'm in a teacher Ed. department right now finishing up my last semester before student teaching. As part of the program we do 80 hours of internships each semester. I had kindergarten last year and I was shocked by the amount of bullying that actually takes place not only in the classroom but on the playground and outside of school as well. As a future educator I hope to handle it differently than I've seen some teachers. I've seen teachers in the past that actually start the behavior. The students see the teacher put down a child and then follow the example. It's a sad reality that must be changed.
I think the only way to stop this is to have a zero tolerance for bullying at school AND at home. I will not allow any child to put down any other student in my class and I will make the punishment for doing so very clear. I have seen this in place and it really seemed to work. Hope things get better for your daughter's class!

Bob Sullo's picture
Bob Sullo
author, educational consultant

Shaina.....Just a few thoughts from someone with over 34 years in public education, written to a future educator. Your passion for education and creating a safe environment is admirable and comes through loud and clear. And, unfortunately, I agree that too often we adults unintentionally model bullying behaviors to our students. (Aside: We are always teaching and modeling, whether we know it or not!)

I do have a word of caution: avoid labels (as much as you can in a profession that loves labels.) Once we call a child a "bully," that's who he/she becomes. And that's how we treat them. I prefer to focus on the behavior. When we observe unwanted behavior (like bullying), we are teachers. We teach children a more appropriate way to act. I give some specific ideas on how to approach this in a post I wrote a while ago. Here's the link:

You can remain in the role you have chosen - teacher - without settling for the role of punisher/enforcer.

I wish you all the best.

Bambie Argyle's picture

As I read through the comments to this posting I had a thought. I believe that behavior is a result of getting needs met. We do things because we are rewarded in some way. I go to work because I get paid, and because I enjoy spending time with children. Bullies are getting rewarded in some way, some need is being met.

I am a kindergarten teacher and see bullying in all its ugly forms. In my room the boys tend to be more physical with their bullying and the girls are verbally mean to each other. My first year I was inundated with tattling. I thought the answer was to have a "tattling jar" where students could write down their tattles. I was hoping they wouldn't want to take the time to write their stories. Wrong! It got worse. I realize that I was emphasizing the wrong thing. I changed the jar to be a "kindness jar" and I would take the time to read their notes about each other to the class, and send them home. It felt so much better in my class.

I try to acknowledge when a child reports to me that he/she was hurt by another. It is hard to be aware of all that goes on.

Rachel H.'s picture

I am a teacher in an early head start classroom that has children from 18 months to 27 months old. I see bullying everyday and it usually involves the same student, we will call her Mary. Mary has been aggressive since I can remember. Some days are worse than others. We do not see any reason for it, it happens at any time throughout the day.

We use to remove her from the situation with verbals like, "That is not okay, we need to be nice to our friends," or "We use gentle touches in school." Usually Mary will either repeat what is said like, "I need to be gently" or she will pretend to cry and come seeking sympath from one of the teachers. Mary began OT a month ago because we were told it could be sensory related but we have seen no difference since that began. At a mental health meeting we recently had we were told it could be some sort of attention need. We were told to remove her from the situation with no verbals and if she comes up to us needing sympathy to ignore her and point out an activity that another child is doing that is positive. For example: Julie I love the way you are playing with your friends so nicely! We just started this approach so I am unsure of the results.

A lot of times I say their home environment has a lot to do with it, but mom is very concerned with her behavior. Mom is on board with doing whatever we think is the best way to approach her aggressiveness and asks on a weekly basis how her progress is. It is hard to say what will help her become less aggressive, we are just going to continue with different approaches until we see a difference. Hopefully this is just a stage like all children go through, even though hers is more intense, we are hoping she snaps out of it soon.

A R's picture

In my teacher preparation courses, we received no instruction on how to handle bullying. Now, with the rise in suicides related to bullying, teachers need specific training in spotting bullying (in all its forms and stopping it). As a primary grades teacher, we need some methods that are more than "let's say kind words" and "keep your hands to yourself." I'm interested in specific mini lessons that I can do in just a few minutes time. As someone said earlier, time is so, so, so limited, its hard to get in these types of character lessons. But we're going to have to do something, one way or another to keep more children from ultimately hurting themselves in the end.

Marissa Parkinson's picture

I agree that bullying is a huge problem. More and more we see children bullying. A lot of children bully so that they themselves aren't getting bullied. I believe that we need to do something about it because we are reading more and more about teen suicides as a result of bullying. I see bullying occurring younger and younger. There needs to be more teaching about bullying and its effects, especially at a young age.

Jennifer's picture


Bullying is definitely a huge problem in schools. As a Pre-K teacher I see bullying at an early age. At the the beginning of the year, I had some children that would not play with certain children because they thought they were strange or weird. I addressed this topic immediately with the students, parents, and the staff. I wanted my students to feel safe in my classroom. I did a weekly theme on bullying. We did a book study on this topic and at the end of it we wrote letters to someone that we bullied.

I agree that this is going to be something that we as teachers will always face. It is not a topic that we should ignore just so we can meet the academic goals. Building trust with parents and the students will help in doing so.

Ashley's picture

I am an educator strongly against the idea of bullying. I have zero tolerance for it in my Pre-K class. We have circle time where we spend time saying something nice about each student. I talk about name calling and fighting and why there are negative to students. It is such a shame that bullying starts so young. I believe respect should be taught at an early age to try to prevent bullying.

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