Classes help define bullyingBullying is a topic talked about in schools on a regular basis. Students are routinely told not to bully other students and to stand up to bullies themselves.
By: Sarah Gorvin, The Republican Eagle
Bullying is a topic talked about in schools on a regular basis. Students are routinely told not to bully other students and to stand up to bullies themselves.
But what if those children don’t really understand what bullying means? How can they try not to do something if they don’t know what they’re not supposed to do?
That’s a problem that Burnside Elementary School staff are working to avoid. Their solution is to incorporate lessons into every classroom that will teach students what types of behavior constitute as bullying and show them how to stop bullying if they do see it.
“We want to make sure we’re really creating that environment where you reduce the likelihood of bullying,” Principal Sheila Beckner said.
There are already several measures in place at Burnside to promote positive behavior. Teachers have been using responsive classroom techniques — where teachers and staff model for students everything from walking in the hall to greeting each other — for years.
In addition, every morning, the entire school recites the “Learner’s Way” pledge, promising to be respectful and polite to everyone.
But Beckner said she wanted to take it a step further.
“In order to prevent bullying we need to teach children to identify bullying behaviors, learn ways they can help the child who is targeted, and learn how and when to report bullying and pre-bullying behaviors,” Beckner said in a letter home to parents explaining the lessons.
Currently, nine teachers are piloting the lessons in their rooms. The curriculum is split into five lessons, and teachers spend one week on each lesson.
Beckner said the lessons are typically taught during the daily morning meeting, when classmates gather to greet one other and share news informally. Because the bullying lessons are paired with picture books, some of the lessons are taught during the class’ normal literacy time.
The first two lessons help teach children that bullying can be physical or emotional and as simple as purposely leaving someone out.
Becker said some children don’t understand that “if I am teasing you to make you feel uncomfortable, I’m bullying you.”
The next lesson shows students how to be an ally to the person being picked on and help them stand up to the person who is being a bully. The fourth lesson helps children understand the difference between tattling on someone and reporting to an adult when there is bullying going on.
“That’s hard for kids to discern,” Beckner said.
The last lesson helps students identify places in the school where bullying might be more prevalent.
“We talked about where we see those things happening around school,” said third-grade teacher Rachel Glover, one of those piloting the lessons.
Her class finished up the fifth lesson earlier this month and identified the playground and school buses as the biggest problem areas.
“If you’re sitting in the back, if someone’s bullying you, you can’t just go to the driver,” third-grader Ellie Halbach explained.
“The bus driver can’t hear you,” added her classmate Deso Buck.
Just about all of the students in Glover’s class said that they had been bullied sometime in their lives. More than half of them added that before the bullying lessons, they didn’t really understand exactly what bullying was.
In addition to the lessons, Burnside is also implementing a school survey to help staff identify what types of bullying is happening, how often it happens and how much of a problem it is for students.
“We’re really trying to get a handle on what the kids are thinking,” Beckner said. “We want to do it every year.”
Moving forward, Beckner said she hopes to get feedback from the nine teachers piloting the lessons and begin implementing them into all classrooms next school year.
“My thought was let’s have them pilot the lessons and figure out what we can tweak for next year,” she said.
Now that the lessons are completed in her room, Glover said she will continue to talk about bullying with her students just as she does with the other class rules.
“It’s not going to eliminate bullying,” she said. “But it’s going to help.”