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What Works: Preventing Bullying in the Classroom

By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on February 21, 2015

What do you say to “That’s so gay”? If you are a classroom teacher like me, you are probably all too familiar with this refrain. But how do we respond when we hear a phrase like this thrown about casually? How do we help children understand why such comments are hurtful?

After 13 years in education, I really appreciate quality professional development - every teacher needs frequent opportunities to fill up her bag of tricks. Over the past two years, the best professional development I have received came from Welcoming Schools, a project of the Human Rights Campaign.  Their mission is to embrace family diversity, avoid gender stereotyping, and end bullying and name calling.

One of the most useful resources for me was a document called “What Do You Say to ‘That’s So Gay’?” The document outlines exactly how to respond to a phrase we increasingly hear children use in a casual manner.  It gives specific responses that both stop the behavior and educate the child.  In my classroom, it sounded something like this:

Teacher: I heard you said something was really “gay”. Do you know what it means to be gay?

Student: Yes.

Teacher: What do you think it means?

Student: It means when a man loves another man or a woman loves another woman.

Teacher: Is that what you meant when you said it?

Student: No.

Teacher: Sometimes people use the word “gay” to say something is stupid, but in this classroom and in this school, we don’t use someone’s identity as an insult.

As with any strategy, a teacher must find what works best for his personal teaching style. For me, the most effective approach is to explain to students why such comments are hurtful. I teach third grade, and I know that 8 and 9 year-olds are loathe to hurt anyone’s feelings.  Helping them make the connection between their comments and others’ feelings is a great first step toward preventing the behavior.  What I love about this strategy is that it is applicable to many situations, including stereotyping and name calling based on any type of difference.  For example, when I heard my students mocking the way the Chinese language sounds, I explained to them that it hurt my feelings as an Asian person. The behavior immediately stopped.

As teachers, it is important that we not be paralyzed by fear when it comes to addressing hot button topics like race and sexual orientation.  Living in a relatively conservative community, I understand the fear of push-back from community members, parents, and even other staff members.  The best response I have heard, and one that is difficult to argue with, is that our schools are a place where all children and all families are welcome. As stated in the document, ignoring the situation sends the message to students that such remarks are acceptable.  In the Welcoming Schools film What Do You Know? Six to Twelve Year-Olds Talk About Gays and Lesbians, a young man states, “If I get bullied, [teachers] will help me but not in the sense that they’re teaching the other kid not to do it.” Even our students recognize that simply stopping the behavior is not enough; we must educate our children in order to prevent bullying behavior.

A great way to become more comfortable handling difficult situations is simply to practice.  Use staff meetings or training times to role-play.  We teachers can be a facetious bunch, and if you ask us to play our students, we will likely give you our worst. The benefit of practicing the worst case scenario is that it will make most classroom situations seem much easier to handle. Additionally, our colleagues are excellent resources and can come up with alternative responses that may work even better than what is suggested by the experts.

When addressing classroom-wide situations of stereotyping, name-calling, and bullying, I find that read-alouds are an especially effective strategy.  For example, I noticed that when doing partner work, several of my students were repeatedly left out.  I pulled my students to the reading corner and read aloud the book The Invisible Boy, by Trudy Ludwig. In this beautifully illustrated book, a young boy with a talent for drawing is ignored by his classmates and even his teacher. His feelings are made clear to the reader because he appears in the pictures as merely an outline. When a new student recognizes his special abilities and befriends him, the boy becomes full of life (and color!). After a class discussion about the power of our words and actions, my students now know that when asked to be someone’s partner, the answer is not only “Yes” but “Yes, I would be delighted to.” For a list of books to engage children, visit here. Remember that your school librarian is also an outstanding resource.

Teachers have an incredibly important job to do.  We are under increasing pressure to get all our students to meet rigorous standards. While this is a worthwhile goal, we also know that a student who feels harassed and unwelcome will not be able to achieve at high levels.  We can use educational interactions with individuals as well as classroom lessons about tolerance and respect to make our classrooms safe places. When we take advantage of the natural empathy students feel for one another, we go a long way toward our ultimate goal of eliminating bullying and raising caring individuals.

What is Peer Meditation?

By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on February 20, 2015

What is Peer Mediation?

Mediationis a way of helping individuals or groups resolve conflicts by talking with each other instead of fighting or walking away.

A peer mediator (or a team of peer mediators) works with individuals or groups who are in conflict.  The peer mediator is trained to listen and to help resolve the conflict.  The peer mediator does not tell the people what to do.  The peer mediator has no power to enforce a solution, and the peer mediator must never take sides.

The goal of mediation is to help people in the conflict create a solution that works for both of them – a win/win solution – even if they both have to compromise a little bit on what they want.

Mediation Session #1

Goals:

  • Students will learn the importance of note-taking and reflective listening.
  • Students will learn how to take notes.

Overview:

Note Taking and Reflective Listening - Demonstration

Brainstorm – Why take notes / What is important to note?

Practice in Pairs

Game – President

Activities:

  • Demonstration of Note Taking and Reflective Listening: Working with a co-teacher or a student you have prepared in advance, demonstrate note taking by asking for a story – about what happened last weekend, or another event/idea, and taking simple, shorthand notes. Repeat back the story, to show that you have gotten all the details correct.
  • Brainstorm: Why take notes?  Why is it important to repeat back what you have heard? Show the students your notes and ask how you were able to repeat the whole story by just having down a few simple notes. Brainstorm important things to note and what things can be left off.  Important things to have down could include:

Names       

Times

One or two word descriptions of important issues

Feelings – how parties feel about one another and any conflicts 

 Needs – a party suggests something needed from the other party.

Offers – a party suggests, even in passing, that they would be willing to do to resolve the conflict.

  • Practice in Pairs:  Break the group up into pairs, and ask one member of the pair to talk about the funniest thing that has ever happened to them, while the other person takes notes.  After 2-3 minutes, ask the person taking notes to repeat back what they have heard, and check how accurate their listening has been.  Then switch, and repeat the process.

Mediation Session 2

Goals:

  • Students will learn the importance of active listening and begin to practice listening actively.

Schedule:

Game – Dragon’s Gold

Active Listening - Demonstration of poor listening

Brainstorm – Why important, what makes active listening?  

Practice – Concentric Circles

Activities:   

  • Game: Dragon’s Gold.  The group forms a circle with one person at the center.  Beneath the person at the center of the circle is a flag or piece of cloth or paper which represents the dragon’s treasure.  The dragon’s job is to guard the treasure, while the people in the circle must get the treasure away from her/him.  They must sneak into the circle, one at a time, without the dragon noticing.  If the dragon touches them or if the teacher sees more than one person at once trying to get the treasure, anyone inside the circle is frozen. This person must stay in the same position until someone is successful with taking the treasure.  The person that succeeds becomes the new dragon.
  • Demonstration of poor listening:  In front of the class, ask your co-teacher (or a prepared student) about his or her weekend.  As they tell you in detail, do everything to demonstrate poor listening.  Don’t make eye contact.  Don’t look at them.  Use distant body language, lean away from them, look around and out the window, act bored, interrupt them and talk to someone else, etc.
  • Pause the demonstration and ask the class what just happened.  Try to name everything which showed you weren’t interested.  Ask your co-teacher or student how it felt not being listened to, and let the class know that, perhaps, the most important part of mediation is active listening. People have conflicts when they don’t feel they are heard.  If you make people feel like they are heard, that’s progress to understanding one another.
  • Brainstorm a list of things that show you are listening well.  Be sure this list includes:

Eye contact

Leaning towards the person

Asking clarifying questions

Repeating what the other person says to make sure you understand

 “Open” and interested body language

  • Concentric Circles– divide the class into two groups and have one group form a circle facing outwards, while the other group forms a larger circle facing inwards so that everyone in the circle has a partner.  

Ask the inside circle to tell their partners about their families, while the outside circle practices active listening.  After one minute, tell them to switch roles, with the outside circle talking and the inside circle listening.

Rotate the inside circle to the left, and repeat the exercise asking about their favorite thing to do on the weekend.

Rotate the outside circle to the left, and repeat the exercise asking about the thing they are most proud.

Debrief the activity.  Ask for one interesting thing the students learned about different people in the group, ask how it felt to be listened to, and ask what people did well and what needs improvement.

17 Ways Schools Can Educate Parents About Bullying

By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on November 23, 2014

By Dr. Michele Borba

Twitter: @MicheleBorba

Blog: http://micheleborba.com/blog/

 

REALITY CHECK: A meta-analysis of over 600 studies on bullying found that a key to reducing peer cruelty is parent education.


I’ve worked in bullying prevention with hundreds of schools around the world as well as on 18 US Army bases and I find the same thing no matter where I am: parent education must be a component in effective bullying prevention. In fact, the sooner we engage and educate parents about the dynamics of bullying and the most effective strategies to reduce it, the better we can help all our children-bullies, targets and bystanders.

 

I’ve included 17 ways I’ve seen schools and communities involve parents in bullying prevention. I’ve learned that there is no right way to strengthen the home-school connection about bullying prevention. Home-grown and organic strategies are always better, and when students are involved it strengthens your efforts even more.

[Read more…]

Research Roundup

By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on November 14, 2014

School 'climate' affects teachers' expectations about students Z News 

The school environment in which teachers work affects their expectations about students, says a new study.The research conducted a multilevel analysis using data from 2,666 teachers in 71 secondary schools in Quebec. “From these data, the researchers could distinguish between two levels of variables -- the teacher: His/her perception of school climate, gender, age, courses taught; and the school: its academic, socio-economic, ethnic composition, and the way the entire school community perceived the school climate.”

 

Classroom Tech, Professional Development Top List of Faculty Concerns Campus Technology

This article discusses the changing role of social media in education.  “While technology is very helpful for student engagement and motivation, where it really shines is in providing professional development and opportunities for teachers to collaborate with colleagues. And social media is turning out to be a powerful tool for those purposes.” Sites proving to be most valuable are twitter, facebook, and google+ for conferences. 

 

Harding Elementary School teacher prepares students for high-tech future The Republic

A tech-savvy Ben Feight integrates technology into his 4th grade lessons. He says, “While assignments might feel more like entertainment, they align with Iowa Core 21st Century Skills like employability, financial, health, civic and technology literacy. He continues, "I want to make sure they are prepared for the world and show them the possibilities.”

 

BROADER MEASURES OF SUCCESS: SOCIAL/EMOTIONAL LEARNING York University

Broader Measures highlights the importance of teaching and measuring social emotional learning. The general positive outcomes include improved academic achievement, increased social-emotional skill, self-esteem and mental health. The report states, “The evidence is clear that it is very important to measure how students are progressing in the development of their core social/emotional competencies, and how classroom and school conditions are contributing to this vital aspect of their education. This is not just a vital aspect of their wellbeing, but a critical factor in their long-term academic attainment as well.”

8 No-Prep Methods to Reduce Classroom Bullying: By Beth Morrow

By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on October 13, 2014

With the continual crush of standards and tests in our classrooms, it’s tempting to bypass the more creative and less structured social activities that don’t end up on a bubble sheet.

The irony is that those feel-good moments are the only opportunity many students have to get to know each other in a socially positive environment as people, not competitors. Bullying is often the result of one person seeking power or attention--or both--from someone lacking confidence in their own social self-worth. The danger is that in eliminating deliberate social skill-building activities, students do not have exposure to or experience in building their own self-worth.  By cutting out these confidence-building moments, it’s as though we are expecting fewer bullying behaviors by eliminating the very tools that can help improve the situation.

We frequently claim we need more time to improve classroom climate but more time is not a prerequisite. Here are eight no/low-prep ways to infuse our classrooms with the behaviors we most want to see from our students.

[Read more…]

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