There are kids at school who feel alone, and while they may not experience the bullying that I did as a child, I'm sure their self-worth and self-esteem are no less wounded than mine used to be.
Bullying is a complex problem. There are no simple solutions. That being said, children spend about 8 of their 16 waking hours involved in school in some fashion, and if at the end of this time they still feel isolated, alone, and broken, then schools have failed as an institution.
No one else has much time to influence their lives as teachers do.
Unfortunately much time and energy as an institution is spent focusing on stuff which pales in comparison to some of the needs of our most vulnerable students. We know from our experience that children cannot learn effectively unless they feel loved and love themselves.
• Schools should feel like communities where everyone knows everyone else by name. It should not be possible for children to pass through our hallways and classrooms without talking to a single soul during the day,
• We should reframe the problem in the positive. Instead of posting "don't be a bully" signs we should model and teach empathy and compassion,
• We need to start modeling empathy and compassion within our wider communities. We will never end bullying in schools while we accept it in the world outside of school,
• Compassion often develops from experience with each other. Instead of separating kids by age, we need to find ways to form connections between kids of different ages. Younger children will always have an older ally, even when they scared to talk to adults. We need inclusive classrooms, not just because it results in better outcomes for the children with special needs, but because it will help all of the children learn about their classmates more deeply,
• We need to treat social interactions as a skill to be learned. (read yesterday’s article as well!) When kids interact poorly, it is an opportunity for learning, and when kids are struggling, we should scaffold the skills they need both to cope and to understand their peers.
If you are an educator, I hope you recognize your power. I also hope that you will choose to use this power in a positive and effective way. You have the ability, opportunity and obligation to change lives. Change one today.