Lesson Idea: Stand Up, Stand Out: No Checking, No Capping, No Bullying
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Memphis: Stand Up, Stand Out: No Checking, No Capping, No Bullying highlights one middle school's response to a noticeable increase in “checking” or the practice of exchanging verbal insults between students.
It was widely recognized that at this school, Fairview Middle School, “playful checking” often lead to bullying when verbal exchanges became unwelcome, quickly turned mean and even lead to fights. To confirm this trajectory, teachers at Fairview conducted a school wide survey asking all students, ““If you could change one thing about the climate and culture of the school, what would it be?”
Overwhelmingly students said to stop checking and bullying.
This video highlights the next steps Fairview Middle School took in order to curb the practice of “checking” to stop any opportunity to bully and to ultimately create a safer school for all students and community members.
According to the organization DoSomething.org, 56% of students have personally felt some sort of bullying at school. Between 4th and 8th grade in particular, 90% of students are victims of bullying. Given these sobering statistics, it is very likely that a majority of students in your class have either been a victim or perpetrated an act of bullying.
Because of the sensitivity of this issue and your student’s possible proximity to being bullied or being a bully, it is critical to take some time to prepare the class prior to viewing this clip. The suggested Pre-View Activities and the Discussion Questions will provide several opportunities to ensure that a safe learning environment can be achieved and a discussion on safe school climate and the role of bullying in their lives can be accomplished.
Pre-View Reading and Discussion: Educating Ourselves about Bullying
(1) Reflecting upon our own experiences:
Directions: In March 2011 President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a conference on the Prevention of Bullying at the White House. The conference highlighted many positive actions young people, school officials, parents and community members have engaged in across the nation to create safer school environments for all students.
Activity 1: As you read the following opening remarks aloud to your students, please have copies available so each student can underline words, phrases or sentences they find particularly meaningful. After completing the passage, ask each student to pick one phrase they underlined and either silently journal why they chose the passage or turn to a classmate and share their thoughts. Invite a large class discussion following the opportunity for students to share what passages were discussed. Record passages discussed on the class white board.
Activity #2: Prior to reading the President’s remarks to your students, pre-select 3-5 sentences you would like the students to discuss in small groups. Print these selections out on individual slips of paper. For example,
“But because it’s [bullying] something that happens a lot, and it’s something that’s always been around, sometimes we’ve turned a blind eye to the problem. We’ve said, “Kids will be kids.”
Following the large group reading of the President’s remarks, have students assemble themselves in small groups of 4-5 students each. Pass out the selected passage slips and ask students to discuss thoughts, feelings or reactions to this particular passage. Share out as a large group their reactions.
As a follow up activity for either #1 or #1 ask students to write a letter to President and First Lady Obama sharing their thoughts about the class discussion that followed learning about the White House Conference on the Prevention of Bullying.
President Barack Obama, March 10, 2011
As adults, we all remember what it was like to see kids picked on in the hallways or in the schoolyard. And I have to say, with big ears and the name that I have, I wasn’t immune. I didn’t emerge unscathed. But because it’s something that happens a lot, and it’s something that’s always been around, sometimes we’ve turned a blind eye to the problem. We’ve said, “Kids will be kids.” And so sometimes we overlook the real damage that bullying can do, especially when young people face harassment day after day, week after week.So consider these statistics. A third of middle school and high school students have reported being bullied during the school year. Almost 3 million students have said they were pushed, shoved, tripped, even spit on. It’s also more likely to affect kids that are seen as different, whether it’s because of the color of their skin, the clothes they wear, the disability they may have, or sexual orientation.And bullying has been shown to lead to absences and poor performance in theclassroom. And that alone should give us pause, since no child should be afraidto go to school in this country……No child should feel that alone. We’ve got to make sure our young people know that if they’re in trouble, there are caring adults who can help and young adults that can help; that even if they’re having a tough time, they’re going to get through it, and there’s a whole world full of possibility waiting for them. We also have to make sure we’re doing everything we can so that no child is in that position in the first place. And this is a responsibility we all share -- a responsibility we have to teach all children the Golden Rule: We should treat others the way we want to be treated.
(2) Responding to bullying in your school or community:
Rosalind Wiseman was a participant at this White House summit. On her website she suggests the following strategies to help young people respond if they find themselves in a situation where they are being bullied or are witnessing an incident of bullying.
If you are being bullied:Many kids who are bullied feel helpless. Sometimes, they think the only thing they can do is hope the problem will go away. But there are things you can do to get some control in the situation and it starts with developing a strategy and a support system.The moment it’s happening:
- Breathe. Observe who is around. Breathe again.
- Ask yourself what the bully is doing that you want stopped and what you want them to do instead.
- If you can, find the courage to say those feelings. For example, “Stop pushing me into the lockers, I want to walk down the hallway in peace. I know you can do whatever you want, but I want you to stop.” Or, “Stop sending texts to everyone in the grade that no one should talk to me.”
- If you can walk away, think about walking towards safety not away from the bully. For example, walk towards a classroom where you can see a teacher you trust. If you are in a park, walk towards a group of adults or a coach.
- Don’t retaliate or threaten to retaliate. This often leads to an escalation of the bullying.If you are being bullied online:
Any time someone is bullied through social networking, a cell phone, or any type of social media, it can be really hard not to want to defend yourself by retaliating or finding out why this person is attacking you. Sleeping with your phone in your bedroom is never a good idea, but it’s even worse when you’re bullied online because it’s too tempting to stay up all night trying to “fix” the situation—which isn’t possible anyway. Same thing goes with a computer. Sleep is hard anyway when you know people are saying mean things about you, but it’s impossible if you’re checking Facebook, Twitter, and your texts all night.After the bullying has occurred:
Remember that reporting a bully is not snitching. People snitch when all they want to do is get the person in trouble. People report when they have a problem that is too big for them to solve on their own. People who report bullying are doing the right thing. And the reality is adults can’t address the problem if they don’t know about it.Report the bullying to an ally: An ally is an adult that you trust to help you think through your problems. An ally can be a parent or guardian, a teacher or counselor. Avoid describing the bullying in generalities like, “He is being mean.” Be specific about the bullying behavior, where you are when it occurs, and what you need to feel safe.If you are scared to go to school, show up for practice, or any other activity, tell your ally or the adult who is in charge. It is not your fault that you are being bullied, and you have the right to be in school and participate in after-school activities, just like everyone else.What do you do if the bully is a friend?
It’s always important to have strong friendships that you can depend on, but sometimes the bully can be a friend. If that happens ask yourself the following questions about your friendship.
- What are the three most important things I need in a friendship? (Most people say, trust, respect, and honesty)
- Are my friends treating me according to what I need in a friendship?
- If my friends aren’t treating me according to my standards, why am I in this friendship? Is it worth it?
- If my friends were nice to me tomorrow, do I believe the bullying will stop or am I hoping for the best and putting all the power in their hands?If you’re the adult who is helping the child or teen think through these questions, it’s ok for them to think about their answers. They need to come up with the answers for themselves so they can internalize the realization that the cost is too high to maintain these relationships. See this resource.What other ideas would you like to add to Ms. Wiseman’s list of responses to bullying?For more information on responding to cyberbulling go to: Students Take On Cyberbullying
(1) Journal Write
After viewing Not in Our Schools – Memphis it may be helpful to first have students take a moment to journal privately in order to facilitate a larger class discussion. If you decide to propose prompts that are personal in nature, it is important to be explicit that their journals will not be publically shared.
Possible prompts could include:
- Is there a practice similar to “checking” at your school? What is it?
- Have you been a participant or witness to any acts of bullying at your school? What were they? What was your role?
- How does your school currently respond to acts of bullying? Do you think these are effective?
- If you were an adult in your school community (i.e. Principal, teacher or staff) what would you recommend as helpful actions to take in order foster a safe school community for all?
For other helpful ideas in using a Journal in the classroom, go to Journals in a Facing History classroom.
(2) Discussion Questions
The opportunity to openly discuss student’s response to this video can be organized with the following discussion questions in mind:
- What was inspiring about the response of Fairview Middle School to bullying at their school?
- DeYvonne, a student at Fairview said “We may not think it is bullying, but it is?” How can you identify when something like “checking" crosses the line and becomes bullying?
- Some of your friends may simply say "I am just teasing" when they call someone a name or make a negative remark about a person. Have you ever been teased in a way that hurts your feelings? What can you do when it happens to you? What about when it happens to someone else?
- What do you think “Stand Up and Stand Out” means at this school? What qualities do you think are necessary in order for an individual to “Stand Up and Stand Out?”
- One teacher mentioned that Fairview students studied the Little Rock Nine and the historical example of desegregation at Central High School as another response in their school. What historical examples of bullying can you think of? Is studying historical examples of bullying an appropriate response to understanding bullying today? Why or why not?
- What other suggestions could you make to the teachers, students and parents at Fairview Middle School to continue to foster a safe school climate. Could these suggestions apply to your school?
- What other inventions and policies do you think are effective in creating safe schools for all?