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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Bullying in the Middle School

Bullying in the Middle School

Related Tags: 6-8 Middle School
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Bullying comes in many different forms, and by middle school the damage that a bully can inflict can last for a lifetime. For some kids the bullying is an extension of that which occurred in elementary school. For others, it begins in middle school, when the differences in sizes, shapes, and personalities become more evident, gaining more attention from peers and schoolyard enemies.

For middle schoolers, the internal conflict of "Who am I? Am I the same as everyone or different from everyone?" takes on an external nature and, at times, manifests itself in bullying.

But are we doing enough to combat the different forms of bullying? Does the staff at your school know what forms bullying takes, where bullying occurs (both on and off campus), and what their role in fighting bullying is?

Are students at ease in finding an adult to confide in?

Do students really know what bullying is, or do they "suck it up" and keep quiet because it's "just the way things are?"

For that matter, do teachers feel it's just the way things are, or worse, do teachers bully as well?

What happens when the formally oppressed become the tormentors? Does that change how a school reacts to a bully?

It is our duty as teachers to look at ourselves clearly and honestly to help find answers to these questions. It is our responsibility to keep these students safe in our care as well as to help them achieve. And, let's face it, a frightened student does not an achiever make.

Join in the discussion and share your thoughts, anecdotes, and solutions.

-Heather WG

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Patrick McMillan's picture
Patrick McMillan
Single dad (2 boys, 12 yrs & 9 yrs) Denver, Colorado

Typing on-line for all to read in my opinion is the same as saying it out loud. I don't mean to sound offensive, but as a parent I am offended to hear a teacher say they don't care about bullying. Of course we should not "accept" the negative modeling that kids experience, nor should should we sit around just talking about it. Something needs to be done in terms of educating the educators and certainly the parents about how to "be" toward others and how to model the behavior they wish to see in their kids. I believe that it should be the parents and teachers obligation to learn emotional intelligence for ourselves first in order to instill it in our kids. When a child is bullied at home by parents or other family members, or he witnesses his parents bullying others, or if he has been bullied by his teacher, he would certainly model that behavior given these are the adults in his life he looks to for guidance and direction. But to then simply punish that child for their behavior is in my opinion wrong. I also believe defeating many issues of bullying is by empowering the bystander, and more teachers need to be more mindful of what goes on their classrooms and also be the bystander and step in and stand up for all the kids in their school, rather than have an "I don't care" attitude. Our kids future depends on us doing the right thing for them.

Joe Brown's picture

I agree with Patrick that the key is to involve the bystanders. That is the aim of the Olweus program, to move the bystanders to take action action the bullying behavior.

As some ahve said, that some kids are just copying what they see at home. I would agree to that and say that it is precisely for that reason that we have to teach kids the correct behavior. Do I believe it should be the schools job? No - it should be the parents job. But, it some parents are doing their job we are left with the choice of living with the behavior or teaching the behavior we want.

Patrick, thanks for the link to the website.

Patrick McMillan's picture
Patrick McMillan
Single dad (2 boys, 12 yrs & 9 yrs) Denver, Colorado

I whole heartedly agree that it is my job as a parent to help my child learn to see the opportunities within all of his experiences, good and not so good. My sixth grader started at a new school this year and the treatment he received as the "new kid" was not only heartbreaking for me to witness as his dad, but saddened him almost to the point of all out anxiety. Using resilience and self-confidence building tools with him at home, the situation has turned around 180 degrees. He is very happy now at his new school and those who bullied him are now his friends. It works! but it MUST START AT HOME!! However, communication and cooperation from his school at all levels was crucial to this success story. His teachers, principal and support staff were 100% willing to support the work I was doing with him at home and implement changes at school to support the social and emotional growth of all their students, bullies included:)

Thanks so much for letting me share my story!

Heather Wolpert-Gawron's picture
Blogger

I think that when we are discussing online, especially something as passionate a topic as bullying, we have to all assume we're on the same page. None of us like it. We all acknowledge something must be done, that teachers and parents must be involved. Our online voice is sometimes more sarcastic then we intend, but that doesn't mean that we don't share the same goals: to keep our kids safe and comfortable enough to learn at school. So let's give each other the benefit of the doubt while we learn our online writing voices.

Having said that, I want to add my two cents to this debate. It should start at school and many times does not. It should continue at school and many times teachers and administrators are not adapt at discussing the topic. There are victims not being taught how to NOT be victims. There are bullies not being taught that their actions won't be tolerated.

So we are all in agreement that there are holes all along the fence which must be shored up if learning is going to be more widespread.

So the real question here that we all need to put our brains to is HOW. How do we train schools? How do we train parents? How do we help kids relate to each other?

We all work in this huge, diverse office space, and to do our business, not all of us will like each other, but we all must function with each other.

How do we guide our communities to see that if we all head toward that goal, more students will achieve?

Thank you to all for every comment added in this important topic.

-Heather WG

Patrick McMillan's picture
Patrick McMillan
Single dad (2 boys, 12 yrs & 9 yrs) Denver, Colorado

It has been seen in many schools that implement school wide character education programs that incidences of bullying dramatically decrease. It seems that successful anti-bullying programs are those that do not focus attention on trying to stop bullying but rather on building resilience in the entire school population through social, emotional and character education programs. At my children's elementary school there were a group of teachers who volunteered to provide extra support to those children who would likely not receive the support from home they deserve. I know I may sound perhaps overly hopeful, but I'm sure most parents really do want their children to be happy and would do what it takes to help them find it, if they knew where to find it themselves. I think parents and teachers should also be held accountable for modeling the behavior of their children. It should be mandatory that all parents attend character education training when enrolling their children into school, and that teachers be required to attend social, emotional and character education training. Character ed should be a mandatory aspect of every elementary and middle school curriculum.

Lisda Fauziah Harahap's picture

It should be mandatory that all parents attend character education training when enrolling their children in to school.

wow. Good idea. Thanks.

Heather Wolpert-Gawron's picture
Blogger

Character Ed should also be a class in every teacher prep program. I think we need to start another discussion thread with where this is going!

-Heather WG

MDavis's picture

Parents are in denial when it comes to their children. Part of the problem is that principals don't want to make waves, many times it's who the parents are and when children are bullying one another many of them don't come forward because they are afraid of the reprisals from the other students. I've seen were students have stepped forward and nothing was done. In our school we are now having students bullying the teachers and the administration turn a deft ear to the situation. Living with a three mile radius of were two students committed suicide due to bullying should have been a wake up call, unfortunately it wasn't.

Patrick McMillan's picture
Patrick McMillan
Single dad (2 boys, 12 yrs & 9 yrs) Denver, Colorado

MDavis, this is a most unfortunate reality. I live in Littleton Colorado, only a few short miles from Columbine High School, and even closer to Deer Creek Middle School where a grown-up decided to visit with a high powered rifle a month or so ago. I recently moved from Bailey Colorado where 7 yrs ago Platte Canyon High School was terrorized by a gunman killing a beautiful young senior student. Our kids are the first generation to witness live and in living color the ravages of war from the comfort of home on wide screen televisions. Kids are scared and are experiencing emotions that most of us did not when we were young. Most adults have a hard time dealing with the sadness of these events, so can you imagine how kids are dealing with them? I am a true optimist and believe that there is great power in forums such as this to come up with ideas to "turn lemons into lemonade", to focus on what is right, and build upon it rather than focus on the wrongs trying to fix them. Wide spread change NEEDS to occur at all levels of education and in the households of children in terms of character and emotional education.

I am a parent and an author of 2 Character Education programs (elementary and middle school levels) and I am in the process of co-producing a free on-line event for parents and educators called Happier Kids NOW! scheduled for October 2010. For information about this event you can visit www.HappierKidsNow.com. My website is www.KidsCanDoAnything.com and I would honor feedback from anyone here at Edutopia.

There is a FREE downloadable e-book for kids on my website too:)

Thanks for not giving up!!

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