Bullies and Bystanders

My school is one of many undertaking an aggressive anti-bullying campaign. Last week we kicked off this effort with a Respect for All Rally. Today, we had visitors from a group called Making Books Sing. I really admired the energy and creative approach they brought to the bullying discussion. Unfortunately, what I saw from my kids was less uplifting.

The volunteers acted out an exchange between a bully and her victim. The bully wrote a nasty note and a nasty message on the board, bringing her victim to tears. My kids hooted and howled at the note. They thought it was hilarious.

Later, the visitors solicited suggestions for how the victim could stop the bully. Ignore her, tell a teacher, and tell her how she feels were popular suggestions. I was happy to hear those lessons of mine had stuck. But also popular, and much more enthusiastically shared, were hit her and write something mean about her.

The takeaway from the visit was that everyone in a community is responsible for stopping bullying. The kids learned the words bullying, empathy and bystander. However, after watching my kids reactions to the skit, I was wondered how much one lesson could do to change their behavior. Clearly, there's a lot of work left to do.


Mad Jack said…
I stumbled across your blog recently and thought it insightful. I used to teach adults, but I lost my patience and enthusiasm for the project.

At least you're paying attention to the bullying issue. An overwhelming majority of teachers do not, I suspect because it's one more behavioral issue they have to deal with. These instructors are in denial of their own actions and shift the blame entirely to the home front.

Your assumption is quite right. Very, very few people can actually learn anything in one lesson and those that do have an I.Q. over 150. The rest of us learn by repetition. In the case of bullying or generally bad behavior, you have to teach your students what to do, rather than trying to correct the behavior and emphasize what not to do. To make the job harder, you're having to replace behavior that is self-rewarding. Think: If I, your student, take Sammy's lunch money by force, I've gained something I want, the value of which exceeds the effort needed to gain the reward. Plus, it's fun to humiliate others; else why do it?

What you must do is teach your student new behavior. Not an easy task, but having read your comments I think it's possible you're one of the few who might pull this one off.

Keep your readers posted.

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