I received an email from a concerned reader asking what my program would be for a school. He pointed out that I said “a poster or guest speaker was simply not enough” and wanted to know why and what should schools be doing differently.
Ok. Good question. However, I feel my answer will not be what you are looking for. But here goes…
There is no “program” that will work. It’s not about sending home a coloring page for our preschoolers, having a great speaker come in one day a year and tell everyone to “be nice”, and its not about having everyone in your school sign an anti-bullying poster and place it outside the cafeteria so that a box can be checked off in the accreditation file. It is however 2 things: a process and culture change. Let me explain.
When I say process I mean that anti-bullying cannot be talked about just in October (anti-bullying month) or when a guest speaker is available to come to the school. It is a process that should be in the classroom everyday throughout the year…and at home. The home connection is vital in this process. If learning ends once a child leaves the building then the process stops. When I was still teaching in the elementary classroom, I sent home a newsletter to my parents every week with assignments/quizzes/tests for the week but it also included weekly updates on: nutrition, bullying, “how to support your child at home”, and suggested book titles and movies. This tool was invaluable for my parents to know what the children were doing during the day but most importantly my expectations of behavior 24/7. I expected all my children to be good students, civil, and good citizens. If you don’t have high expectations, children will flounder and be subpar. I have been so blessed with amazing students to teach…
More than anything my students felt safe in my room. They could, and did, tell me anything and everything. I went to their first communions, football games, basketball games and scout ceremonies. I was invested in them and they invested in me. It won’t work if it is not that way.
When I say culture, I mean a culture of change. Meanness is not cool, sexy, and it certainly will not help you keep friends. It will come back to get you in the end. Every time. But again I stress that this is important in every classroom every day and also at home. This is not faith based. This is human being based. Just good old fashioned playing well with others mind set. Parents: simply asking “how was your day” won’t cut it anymore. You have to dig deeper. I ask annoyingly specific questions to my children. Lesson I learned: when my oldest daughter saw bullying at her school she told me right away and asked for help. My youngest daughter is learning how to choose her words carefully so that “she is a good friend” to all. What more could I ask for?
The second part of the email asked why I write so much on bullying…
…because I was bullied.
Starting in middle school through high school I was ridiculed, taunted and teased every day. I hated every day of it. Mind you this was a long time ago without facebook, cell phones and such so to look back now it seems tame. But it hurt none the less. I always think back as to how I handled it and why I was a target. And I don’t really know the answer. I know I was different. I loved cheerleading and choir and doing well in school. I really did not desire to go to parties in high school, I did not drink alcohol, I did not have sex in high school, and I never received a single detention. Well, actually that is a lie I received a detention in 6th grade in Mrs. Williams class for not having my pencil three times in a row…but other than that the only trip to the principal’s office I made was in high school to receive a pencil for being a leader in the L.I.G.H.T Brigade which was kind of a “just say no” club. But I remember being nice to people. I was respectful to my teachers, a good friend, and dependable. So who knows…guess it was just my turn.
All I know now is that I had a successful venture in attaining higher education, have wonderful friends and a glorious church, three amazing kiddos, and a husband who saw my high school prom picture and thought I was smokin’ hot…what else do I need?
As always, thanks for writing in. Keep the comments and the conversation going.