Bullying and Beyond

bully stance by yayaempress at flickrI still have posts to clean up and publish from NCTE and NWP, but today I had two things come to my attention on bullying.  The first was included by my principal in our staff bulletin, a story to remind teachers that it is our moral responsibility to stand up for those who are made victims by their peers.  This made me think about bullying and how easy it is to be complacent.  It also made me think about how I believe we need to go beyond confronting the bullies.  Realistically, I find I have to help train my most bully-prone students in how to protect and defend themselves, at least emotionally.  The ones that get picked on in elementary often go on to be savaged by peers in middle school.  Realistically, teachers aren’t ending bullying in a world where we can’t control all the values our students are taught to embrace by family, media, etc. 

So we have to help students to be resilient in a world in which they can’t afford to feel at their peers’ not-so-tender mercies.  This does NOT mean I advocate leaving them to figure it out.  In the language of my school’s “No Putdowns” program, I need to coach these kids in shielding themselves, thinking about why the bullying is happening, and choosing a response they feel okay about.  Not just in the abstract, whole class format, but in an individual way that provides the specific support these kids need.

I used to think it was all about dealing with the bully, but my experiences so far have taught me that the kids who are most prone to bullying have parents who, implicitly and sometimes even explicitly, support those behaviors.  That limits my effectiveness.  So now my efforts are turning toward protecting those who are victimized and helping them develop solid strategies to build resilience in the face of humiliation.  Sounds like its going to be difficult.

Oh!  The second piece that got me thinking and thinking about bullying was from Wes Fryer’sblog, where he goes into detail about a story on the Today show related to the sometimes tragic results of cyberbullying.  Wes very astutely calls schools out on providing more information, training, and opportunities to parents and students on social networking, including the positive ways it can be used and the appropriate sites for different age groups.  One of my pet peeves is children with MySpace accounts, an environment which clearly is not meant for kids.  Wes already said a lot on this issue and if you’re interested, I highly recommend his post on this particular topic (and his blog in general).

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