reflection

Bullying: It’s not just a buzz word

It seems that today the new buzz word in education – believe it or not – is bullying. School bullying (be it cyber or face-to-face) is a trending topic in most schools.  I know some local schools in my district have initiated anti-bullying campaigns.  And just about every teacher and school guidance counselor squares off against bullying on a regular basis.

While it seems to be all the buzz…bullying has always been a very serious situation in the lives of almost every student.  With the rise in social media, cyber bullying is becoming rampant and only exacerbates the problem in schools.  Bullying is an every day problem.  In fact, I think many teachers would be shocked to hear how many of their students feel bullied while at school, and it would be students who you wouldn’t expect.

According to statistics gathered by USC and presented in this infographic, 1 out of 4 students are bullied every month and roughly 160,000 students miss school each day for fear of bullying.  Even more ming boggling, 1 out of 10 students drops of out school each year due to repetitive bullying.  And all of those stats only include the cases that are reported because about 81% of all bullying cases go unreported by students.

To be honest, I can’t say that I’m speaking from personal experience, but as a teacher, I have a heart for the victims of bullying.  I mean sure I was bullied once or twice but nothing to the extent of what I see in my school or hear about on the news.  As teachers, we have to try to do our best to end the cycle.

Earlier this morning, I was reading an article from the New York Times’ educational section and came across this piece written by Laura Klein called Bullying Changes a School, One Child at a Time.  The article details the experience of Rocky, a 7th grade student from the Senegal, whose name has been changed for privacy.

Rocky starts out as a straight A student who stands out among her peers and with her teachers, but eventually the bullying takes a toll on who she is.  Rocky begins to become defiant and disrespectful and ultimately, punches another student at which point she herself has become a bully.  Luckily, Rocky has Ms. Klein to help stop the bullying cycle and help her realize how important it is to stay true to yourself.  The entire article boils down to this great point.

“Those who are accused of bullying aren’t necessarily bad kids, or even truly mean a lot of the time. But an environment where bullying or harassment is happening is an environment that can transform anyone into a bully.

The true danger of bullying is the way that it changes kids. After weeks of feeling defensive and guarded, Rocky began to hide her sweet softness. Enough of this transformation in children, and the environment of a school is changed.”

Bullying is not just something that some kids do.  Bullying is an epidemic that if allowed will infest your school environment and bring down your school from the inside out.  Without proper intervention, there is not a good way for any bullying situation to end.   Bullying changes who students are.  It’s a cycle that feeds itself.

So how can you help…

1) Ask – Always ask students if they are okay when they appear to be “off” or down.  A lot of times you may get some generic answer, but other times you may be just who your student needs to talk to, which leads into…

2) Listen – It seems simple, but so many teachers (including myself) don’t.  Just listen.

3) Be visible – One of the easiest ways to decrease student aggression is to be visible especially during transitional times in your school like a class change.

4) Enforce – Enforce the rules and hold students accountable for breaking any rules your school or district has in place for bullying.

5) Get others involved – Schools are all about community so use your community (parents, guardians, local leaders) to help prevent bullying in school and outside of it.

Visit one of the following websites for more information…

http://www.stopbullying.gov/

Additional Resources on How You Can Help

http://www.education.com/topic/school-bullying-teasing/

***Image provided Sports Doing Some Good at http://sportsdoinggood.com/

Slush Happens and A Personal Confession

Many first year teachers enter their new classroom with a newly acquired skill set and the drive to change the face of education one student at a time.

Then…(insert dramatic, 10 second musical interlude)

They run into what I like to call “The Slush.” The slush is all of the paperwork, the broken copiers, the difficult administrators, the lack of guidance for students and teachers, the burnt out and complacent teachers, the ineffective PLTs, the super teachers, and the list goes on. (Side note: Not every school is full of all of this slush, but at least every school has a little bit.)

Seriously, how does education expect any teacher to make it through the slush and come out on the other side just as motivated and driven?

Ok confession time…I am jealous of all of the teachers that not only made it through the slush, but came out of the slush more successful and albeit borderline famous educators because it sure hasn’t happened to me.  I wish I was that teacher or at least saw a road that would lead me their one day, but instead, the slush is slowly swallowing me. I constantly feel like I am fighting battles that make sense to you and I, but to the majority of the big dogs in my school and district I might as well as be speaking my own made-up language.  I guess I just thought there would either be less slush or I would be able to fight through it sooner.

Not to toot my horn or clang my own symbol, but I have always been somewhat of a high flyer (as my principal likes to say). I made straight A’s through high school with the occasional B and went to college on a full ride.  I graduated college with a 3.8 and found a job right out of college in a job market that was even tough for teachers.  After my first year of teaching, I was named a finalist for the First Year Teacher of the Year Award.  And now I am beginning graduate school.  I have been very lucky and blessed throughout my entire life and short teaching career, but now all of sudden I am drowning in slush and to be brutally honest, I’m not used to it…not at all.

I don’t know why I am having trouble fighting through it.  I’ve done all of right things.  I have surrounded myself with accomplished educators in my PLN.  I work diligently to try and stay on top of the educational trends and best practices.  I read through my RSS feed almost every day to continuously build upon my knowledge of teaching, grow my educational resources, and hone my skills.  Yet somehow, even after 2 years of teaching, education is rubbing my face in the slush.  In fact many days, I feel like education is holding me down and making me drink the slush.

It’s difficult to look around and see (or read about) all of these super-human teachers. Many teachers have written at least one book (if not more).  Many teachers have been on Oprah.   Many teachers have thousands of twitter followers or a worldwide blogging audience.  Many teachers have won awards and moved on to bigger and better things.  And here I am with my 366 followers, my small (yet very much appreciated) blogging audience, and my very un-famous teaching career.

I guess my point is that in a society that worships the quick fix, praises celebrities and athletes, and salivates over how make to quickest and biggest dollar, it is easy to feel like a failure…especially in teaching.  I am jealous of all of those teachers who have made it to the promise land.

Then I remember — it’s not about me at all.  It’s not even about y’all.  It’s about them…my students.  With so much focus on Arne Duncan, core standards, RTTT, teacher evaluation and accountability, it is so easy to lose sight of why we all teach.  Maybe the promise land is different for me.  Maybe the promise land is different for teachers who set out to be change agents in their classrooms and if they impact education on a larger scale…well that’s just a bonus.  Look, bottom line…slush happens, and sometimes I just have to remind myself of why I fight through the slush every day and why I’m happy to do it.