Posts Tagged 'bullying'

Stand Up, Stand Strong: A Counselor’s Lesson About Anti-Bullying

Sabrina Blog post october 7By Sabrina Bartels – This past week, my fellow counselors and I got together and created a lesson for our students about putting themselves in someone else’s shoes. Since so many of our students enjoyed it (especially my 8th graders; they got a kick out of the fact that their counselor wrote a lesson about shoes!), I thought it would be beneficial to share it with all of you! While our lesson was targeted towards middle school students, I’m sure that it can be adapted for elementary or high school.

Our goal with the lesson was to teach our students about judging someone based strictly on their physical appearance: shoes, clothes, hair, etc. and how this can often lead to bullying. We also wanted to show our students that there is often more to a person’s story than what meets the eye. Many times, our students make quick, snap decisions about others. We wanted our students to take the time to think about what could be happening in someone’s personal life.

We started with two pictures. The first picture was a pair of ragged, dirty tennis shoes. The teachers asked the students to take two minutes and jot down their first impressions of the shoes, and what they thought about the person who wore them. The teachers then showed the students another image: a pair of brand-new, clean Jordan shoes. Again, the students were asked to write down their first impressions and thoughts about the person who wore the shoes.

We had the students set aside their notes and talk with a partner about what they thought empathy meant. The entire class then brainstormed a definition for empathy to use. Many of the classes used the definition “when you are able to understand how a person feels in a certain situation.”

Next, we discussed what it meant to have empathy for someone. We used the phrase “putting yourselves in someone else’s shoes.” We explained that by putting on someone else’s shoes, we are able to think about the story of their life. Some stories, we said, are happy. Other stories are sad. When our students tease others, or make judgments, without knowing that person’s story, it can be very hurtful. We explained that gossiping about those judgments can often lead to bullying, whether it is physical or verbal.

Then, we had the students go back to their notes on the two pairs of shoes, read what they had initially wrote, and then think about how their thoughts may or may not have changed. The entire class got the opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings about the project.

One student offered to share her thoughts after the discussion about empathy. She wrote:

I look at what I wrote about the dirty shoes. I said that I thought the person who wore them didn’t care about their appearance. I thought that maybe they liked gardening, or working, so they couldn’t be bothered with looking nice. And the person who had the nice shoes (Picture #2) probably cared a lot about their appearance and about others and were really snobby.

When I relook at the pictures and “put myself in someone’s shoes,” that makes me think. Like maybe the person who has really beat up shoes can’t afford others. Or maybe they did have new shoes, but they gave them to someone else, since they had shoes already. And maybe the person who has new shoes found them at a discount store. Maybe they were a gift from someone. Or maybe they are hand-me-downs, but someone took really good care of them before they were passed down.

After the lesson, we offered to take pictures of our students’ shoes, to show that we were going to “stand up” together against bullying. We have displayed the pictures on a bulletin board in our hallway. We are so proud of the fact that we are standing up, standing strong, and standing together!

From Meanness to Meaningful: Bullying Activity for Middle Schoolers

Troubled-Teens-BullyBy Sabrina Bong — Last year, I talked to all my then 6th grade students about bullying.

During my mini speech, I also admitted to them that I was once a bit of a bully. When I said that, a lot of my students giggled; one even said, “Seriously? You’re too little to bully anyone!”

But then, I began telling the story of my bullying ways: when I was in middle school, we had a new student who joined our class. She was nice enough, but was somehow different from the rest of us. She was shorter than me (which, if you know me, is pretty tiny). Beyond that, I’m not sure why we didn’t accept her. Maybe it’s because we had all been together since first grade and had our own ways. Maybe it’s because she didn’t try to be like the rest of us, doing our best to fit in by discussing boyfriends and makeup. Whatever reasons we had, we were just awful to her and did our best to exclude her. She wasn’t one of us.

Now that I’m older, (hopefully) more mature, and a counselor, I more readily see how much bullying impacts students. When I was in middle school, I joined in because I was afraid that by not ridiculing and excluding her, I would be ostracized by my entire grade. I wanted to be like everyone else. I wanted to be popular. So when I have students who choose to be bullies and pick on others, I completely get where they are coming from.

In an effort to stop some of the bullying/gossiping/cliques that are currently forming in one of my 7th grade classes, I went upstairs and asked the students why they thought I was there. One of the students raised her hand and said that she thought I was there because the whole class was having an issue with being disrespectful to the teacher and to the other people in class.

I saw this idea on Pinterest and knew that I had to try it with this class. I wrote “How do you want to be remembered?” in the center of the whiteboard, and then had my students google synonyms of the word “mean.” At first, the students thought I was crazy. But I kept asking for words until we had filled almost the entire board.

I explained to my students that if they weren’t careful, they would soon be known by all of those negative words that I had written down. This was sobering for some of the students. A lot of the students who had spent the beginning of class laughing and joking were suddenly staring at me with enormous eyes.

After a few minutes of silence, one of my students said, “You put all the negative words around ‘How do you want to be remembered?’ That’s not how I want to be remembered at the end of the school year.”

I explained that they could change how people perceive them, but that it would be their doing. As much as I would guide and help them, I could not make them be different. I could not force their behavior to change. I told them that they were able to “erase meanness.” As I said this, I grabbed the whiteboard eraser, erased “rude” and wrote in “kind.”

“How do you want to be remembered?” I asked, before passing the marker on to a student. The student stood up, erased a word, and replaced it with a nice one.

For the whole class period, we erased and added words. And while it’s a little too soon for me to determine if the activity worked or not, I think I made an impact with my students. Hopefully I have encouraged them to erase their meanness and become the kind, loving individuals that I know they are.

For the original activity, please check it out this blog here.

Battling Bullying with Zink the Zebra

32logoBy Sabrina Bong — For the past few weeks, I have been working on intermediate school curriculum for the Student Services department.

It’s been great being able to meet up with my colleagues in a less-structured setting, as opposed to a department meeting after school. Now, we’re a little more relaxed and we swap stories about how we are spending our vacations.

While writing down curriculum about bullying and coming up with ideas to further encourage our students to be “active bystanders” and helping others, I reread a book that I hadn’t thought about since I was nine years old. The book is called Zink the Zebra, and it was written by Kelly Weil, an 11 year old girl from Wisconsin. It is about a zebra named Zink, who was born with spots instead of stripes.

Zink is teased because of this difference, and therefore goes on a quest to find out if spots are weird or not. In the end, Zink learns that a zebra is a zebra, regardless of how one looks.

For me, the really poignant part of the story is the young girl behind it. Kelly wrote the story as she battled cancer. After she died in 1993, Kelly’s family was surprised when her teachers wrote them a letter, which talked about how Kelly had struggled with other students making fun of her because she had no hair. Like Zink, she struggled with looking different from her peers, but also like Zink, she realized that being different made her special.

I had mentioned this book to my students at the end of the year while we discussed bullying and ways to prevent it, but hadn’t had the time to read it to them. Now, I wish I had.

Middle school is an age where peer approval is at its peak. It was the same when I was in middle school; all of us just desperately wanted to fit in. I would say that it’s harder nowadays to do so. In an age where Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat are around to document a person’s every move, outfit, and comment, I feel like the task of “fitting in” is even more daunting. If you are a person who does not conform, it’s a little bit harder to make it through these middle school years. And really, that’s the sad thing! Students feel like the only way they can make it through is if they are like everyone else. They are afraid to be individuals, to be different, to have thoughts and opinions that are unique.

And to be honest, that’s where bullying starts. It starts with individuals who are different and people tease them.  The behavior then morphs into judgment, torment, humiliation, and exile.

I plan on reading this story, or at least discussing it with my students each year. The tale, written in the  voice of a child so close in age to my students, is so poignant, and I hope my students continue to learn from it. They will talk about bullying at least once throughout their three years at the intermediate school, so they will be well-versed in it by the time they reach high school! And I hope my students find the same courage to be unique that Kelly Weil embodied when she wrote Zink the Zebra.

To learn more about Zink, Kelly, and the Zink the Zebra foundation, you can Google search “Zink the Zebra.” You’ll find links to different activities and places where you can buy the book. I really encourage all teachers and counselors to read this book with their students. It is best for elementary and early middle school (I think by seventh and eighth grade, it becomes a little too young for them,) but the idea behind the book is great for all ages. Enjoy!

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.

Stop Bullying Now

Attending the Law School’s conference on bullying yesterday took me back vividly to the one and only time I was bullied.  It only lasted about 24 hours, but it made such an impact on me that I’ll remember it always.

When I was in sixth grade, our class bully threatened to kill me because I beat him out for the basketball team. I was traumatized, because he had flunked two times and was physically superior to everyone in my class.

He was a mean dude in every respect, and reveled in making others cower.  I took his threat seriously.  In fact, I faked being sick in class so I could be sent to the nurse’s office.  But I never went there.  I ran straight home instead–fearful, full of terror, and paralyzed.   It took every ounce of courage I could muster to go to school the next day.

Fortunately for me, that very day another player got injured and the coach put the bully on the team. Continue reading ‘Stop Bullying Now’

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, But Words Will Last Forever

Guest Blogger: Tina Owen, Lead Teacher, The Alliance School of Milwaukee

Trust Walk

Alliance students build community with a "trust walk"

“Close your eyes and think back to a moment in youth when you didn’t want to go to school because of a bully?” That was the question that I asked a group of parents and grandparents at a family night at Walker Middle School in 2006. Every single person could think of a time and a person who made his or her life so miserable that he or she didn’t want to go to school.

The emotional scars left by bullying are tremendous. Nobody can, with any bit of honesty, say “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Words hurt. We all know it, but so often we choose to look the other way, because we’re not exactly sure how to handle it.

With a little bit of effort, though, it can be handled. Safe and accepting communities can be built, and bullying in schools can become the rare exception, rather than the accepted and dangerous rite of passage.

If we are going to reduce bullying in schools, we have to start being explicit about its harm. Continue reading ‘Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, But Words Will Last Forever’


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