Working to end bullyingIn any bullying situation, there is always the victim and there is always the bully. But — as a group of Burnside Elementary School students learned last week — there can be another important person: the bystander.
By: Sarah Gorvin, The Republican Eagle
In any bullying situation, there is always the victim and there is always the bully. But — as a group of Burnside Elementary School students learned last week — there can be another important person: the bystander.
“The bystander can stand up for a friend, say something to change the situation,” said Mary Duncomb.
Duncomb is retired from the University of Minnesota Extension Service and was recently hired by Red Wing Community Education to put together a three-session course called No More Bullies.
About a dozen students in grades 2 through 4 are participating in the three classes. The importance of a bystander was one of the things the students learned in their first session Nov. 29.
“They didn’t understand that word,” Duncomb said.
She said the students had an “a-ha” moment when they learned the power a bystander can wield. But the students also learned that bystanders can make the situation worse by laughing or egging on the bully.
“They talked about if that is a good thing to do to a friend,” Duncomb said.
The No More Bullies classes stem from a community discussion about bullying prevention that Walking the Talk of Welcome held in October. Participants of that event wanted to keep bullying in the public eye.
“They asked that they keep the conversation going throughout the rest of the school year,” said Marcia Jensen of Red Wing Community Education.
While Duncomb is coordinating the course, she’s not the one leading the lessons. Instead, three high school juniors — Ashley Elford, Kelsey Lappegaard and Katie Carlson — have volunteered their time.
“We feel it’s very effective. They listen to an adult all day,” Duncomb said, adding that the elementary students often connect more quickly with a teenager “who really knows what’s going on.”
The high school students say they know first-hand what the elementary students may be going through or what they eventually may go through as they get older.
“We’ve gone through elementary and middle school,” Red Wing High School junior Katie Carlson said. “We’ve experienced it.”
“I think the most drama-filled years were in middle school,” Lappegaard said.
In the course’s second session this past Thursday, the students learned about different types of bullying: physical, verbal and emotional.
“I don’t think they realize how many things constitute as bullying,” Lappegaard said.
“It is even ignoring people,” Elford said. “Even the little things can hurt people.”
They also discussed bullying doesn’t only hurt the victims.
“(Being a bully) might make you feel good now, but after you go back and think about it, you won’t be so happy,” Carlson told the students.
The classes don’t just consist of lessons. The first part of the hour class Thursday has students pair up and draw a picture together. They also played a team-building game where students had to work together as a class to move across a life-sized game board.
The goal, Duncomb said, is to show students how to work together against bullying and to make friends in the process.
“Friendship is so important,” Duncomb said. “If you feel you have a friend that cares about you, that’s really important.”
The classes also serve as a time where students can talk openly. Elford, Lappegaard and Carlson have been trained on how to answer questions honestly, Duncomb said.
“Many of them have questions about, ‘Am I the only one that gets bullied?’” Duncomb said.
The last part of Thursday’s class was devoted to journaling. Students wrote bullying definitions in homemade books.
“We find journaling is so important. Kids can express themselves,” Duncomb said.
Overall, Duncomb said she hopes that the students enrolled in the class will learn how to stand up to bullies, how to help others who are being bullied and how to teach others how to do the same.
“These are skills that they can use,” Duncomb said.
The last class session will be Dec. 13.