Opening Up About Bullying

By Stephanie Rappe — Last week I had a rude awakening to bullying in my classroom. The morning Journal prompt said, “How do you want to be treated by your classmates? How are you treated? List both good and bad examples.”

I made this the prompt because the day before I had two girls upset because they had heard someone talking about them in a negative way. Therefore, I thought this prompt could initiate a good class discussion. As I read through the student’s responses to the prompt I was shocked. There were a couple of students whose writing had me holding back tears. There were three boy’s writings that really stuck out to me.

In the first that caught my eye, a student talked about how he was being teased by another boy in our class for being fat. He said that this mean boy sometimes calls him slow and weird. He also told me that this bully calls him fat in Hmong so that I can’t understand what is being said.

The second writing that stuck out to me was a boy that said the same bully as the first one was also bullying him. It said that he calls him ugly, and says things like “wow, you suck” to him. I couldn’t believe this! Especially because these boys seems to all get along and enjoy being around each other during free time.

The third response made me very uneasy. It was from a boy saying that he wished he were bigger because he wouldn’t get picked on if he was taller. He wrote about the same boy that the other boys wrote about, and wrote down the hurtful things he said to him.

These writing responses made me feel sick. I was so sad for these boys who were feeling hurt and self conscious about themselves. Some of the girl responses were similar, but not to the extent of these three from the boys. Thus, I had a long discussion with my kids about bullying. I told them about the effects of bullying, and how their actions affect others. We talked about why it is wrong to judge people, and how our differences make us special. We also talked about how some things that you think are a joke others might take to heart.

This discussion triggered many emotions and ideas in my students. They began to ask me questions about what they should do when people say hurtful things to them, and what to do if they don’t stop. They shared different instances when they were hurt by something someone else said, and they also shared how they each want to be treated. This was eye opening for them because they realized that they all want to be treated the same way. They all want to be treated kindly and with respect.

After this discussion we sat down and had a peace circle. This circle’s purpose was to have the students taking turns saying positive praises to one another. As we went around the circle, the students did a great job of thinking of meaningful praises for each of their peers. I am hopeful that this will help them be more conscious of their words and actions so that we can move forward in a much more careful and kind manner.

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