Saturday, January 9, 2010

Four Steps to Becoming Fully Bully-Proofed

It occurred to me after my last post why I felt so compelled to write about bullying after my recent string of posts about dandelions and orchids. While low self-esteem and poor school performance are serious consequences of bullying--ones in which dandelions and orchids face--it's self-harm and suicidal thoughts and behaviors that are likely to affect orchids who've been bullied. Bullying for an orchid, thus, is potentially a life and death issue. I think that's why I feel so strongly about it.

I had a fantastic experience co-creating an anti-bullying stance among Ms. Courtney Humphrey's class at Dearborn Park Elementary. I'll share their story as a way to illustrate the basic principles. I'm sure every group could adapt these steps to fit their group's dynamics. And so, here are the 4 steps any group can use to bully-proof their relationships:

1. Make explicit the group's anti-bullying stance
Ms. Humphrey's students were very astute in recognizing the negative effects of bullying in their class. Kids said bullying made them feel "sad" and "not like" being at school. No one said they wanted to bullying to continue.

2. Explore what a bully-proof zone would be like
Students said they thought they'd be "nicer", would "cooperate more" and "have more fun" if bullying were no longer a part of their classroom

3. Take time to recognize anti-bullying tactics displayed by others
During group circle time, students recognized each other's good deeds performed during the day. Students cited "helping" someone with their work, "not teasing" another's gaffe, and performing other acts of kindness as anti-bullying tactics.

4. Reward the group for reaching anti-bullying goals
This last one is optional, but who doesn't love a reward? Every student in the class was recognized by another for exhibiting anti-bullying behavior at some point during their classroom bully-proofing, and for this hard work, Ms. Humphrey took the class on a field trip to a nearby island.

I can't express enough how incredibly impressively Ms. Humphrey and her class worked to bully-proof their classroom. The change was dramatic! I saw fewer outbursts from students, more time devoted to academic work, and a marked increase in cooperation and civility between students. They were a joy to work with from the start and their anti-bullying efforts were truly inspiring!

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