A New Year, A New Approach to Bullying Prevention: How Setting Small Goals Can Make A BIG Difference-Part II
Last week we talked about a quote from Stephen Covey and how it can be applied to bullying prevention. Covey stated: “If you want to achieve something you’ve never achieved before, you have to do something you’ve never done before.” In the past 15 years, we have seen an encouraging increase in awareness of the true dangers of bullying. However, bullying continues to be a significant problem in schools today. In last week’s post, I posed the question: can Covey’s theory be applied to bullying prevention? If we approach bullying in a new way, would we see new results? I believe the answer is YES.
It’s not uncommon for schools to set goals for their students, including the goal to END BULLYING! This is a noble, if not large, goal. However, it’s somewhat vague. Though they’re young, children can and should set BIG goals, but it’s important that we help them to break those larger goals down into smaller, measurable short term goals. To help get you on your way to achieving things you’ve never achieved before, this week I will be sharing 6 specific, measureable goals to creating a bully free environment!
1. The Goal: A Word A Day
This may sound simple and perhaps even cliché, but words truly have incredible power. Set the goal to say one kind thing to someone each day. Encourage students to use their words of kindness on someone they don’t know very well and to think outside the box, going beyond external compliments, such as “I like your shoes!” Of course, such compliments are always lovely to receive, but we want to raise children that are able to see a multitude of good qualities in their peers, not only what’s on the outside
As a class, come up with a list of unique compliments, such as “you are kind”, “you were brave today when you volunteered to solve that problem in front of the class”, “You have good taste in books” or “you have a great imagination”.
The Measurement: There are many ways to measure progress on this goal and, depending on the time you have available and the learning style of your students, you can choose one or all of them. For visual learners, create a word board where students can write words of kindness they spoke or received. If you want to keep things more anonymous, or would just like to get into more detail, have your students write in a journal for 10 minutes (or however much time you can set aside) reflecting on the progress of their goal. You can write back to them and guide them as they move forward. If you are short on time (and who isn’t??), you could do something as simple as have a checklist of daily goals, including speaking a word of kindness, that students fill out at the end of the day. Meet with students one on one occasionally to chat about how they’re doing and how they can improve.
2. The Goal: Including others
It’s easy to stick with the same group of people, but this can sometimes leave others left out and alone. Set the goal to include someone new in at least one activity each week. This could be as simple as inviting someone to sit at the lunch table or could go as far as inviting a new friend over to play. To keep students accountable and avoid getting lost in a sea of vagueness, have your children write down a specific activity at the beginning of the week. It can be the same for the whole class or vary by individual.
The Measurement: Depending on the age of your students, this is a great opportunity to explore their creativity and integrate some other subject lessons along the way. Younger children could draw a picture of their experience while older students could write it out in story fashion, practicing writing and storytelling skills.
Keeping a journal is also always useful to track progress while simultaneously building writing skills. Encourage students to write about their expectations for new experience beforehand and then reflect on the actual experience later, comparing and contrasting the reality to the belief. This is a fantastic exercise to reveal some of our preconceived notions and to help students learn that there is usually more to most people than meets the eye.
3. The Goal: Thinking about words and their effects
We’ve all experienced that moment where we said something out of hurt or anger without really thinking. We’ve probably all been on the receiving end of that experience, as well. Set the goal as a class to become more mindful of the words that we say and the effect that they have on others. If you feel like getting creative, make bracelets as a class and wear them as a reminder to think before speaking.
The Measurement: As with the previous goals, keeping a journal is a fantastic way to remain accountable and track progress. As they reflect on their days, encourage students to pay special attention to the words they spoke and received and to consider the effects of those words, as well as why they may have been spoken.
Since the goal is to become more aware of all words and their effects, encourage students to write down their observations of conversations outside of their own, as well as their personal interactions. What do characters on T.V. say? How do other characters react? How do the words of the characters affect the viewer? At the end of the journal entry, have students write down what they learned from the reflection and what they will do to make tomorrow’s interactions better. Are they becoming more aware of the power of words?
4. The Goal: Become an Upstander.
Studies show that bullying behavior ended within 10 seconds of peer intervention 56% of the time. Standing up to bullying lets the bully know his or her behavior is not ok, provides strength in numbers, and lets the victim know he or she is not alone. However, standing up can also be very scary. As a class, discuss why people might be afraid to take a stand against bullying and work through those fears.
After a while, I would encourage you to take parts of the script away. Provide lines for the bully, but have the victims and bystanders improvise their responses. At the end of the role play session, have students reflect on how they think they did and what they could have done differently. That is their goal for the next week.
The Measurement: Before beginning the above discussions and training, have students fill out a survey detailing whether or not they would stand up to a bully, how they might react to a bullying situation, and the reasoning behind their thoughts and actions. At intervals throughout the year, give the survey again and see what progress has been made. Do students feel more prepared? Are they exhibiting less fear? What areas still need improvement? At the end of each role-play session, have a short discussion to assess whether or not the students changed what they wanted to change from the previous week.
5. The Goal: Increasing Kindness.
This is a fun and simple one. Kindness is contagious and can go a surprisingly long way towards ending bullying. It’s a lot harder to be mean to someone who is consistently kind to you, and a child is less likely to bully when his or her emotional needs are being met. As a class, come up with a list of acts of kindness that can be achieved throughout the year. Some can be broad, such as opening the door for the person behind you, and some can be specific, such as choosing a random student in the class and bringing him or her a special treat or writing a kind note.
The Measurement: There are many ways to count your random acts of kindness. Here is an idea borrowed from the book Service Learning in the Pre K-3 Classroom, by Vickie E. Lake, Ph.D, and Ithel Jones, Ed.DA . Lake and Jones suggest drawing out goals to help younger children to visualize what they would like to accomplish. For example, on strips of paper, have the students draw a variety of random acts of kindness they would like to achieve. As they accomplish the acts, move the strip of paper from one side of the board to the other. At the end of each week, students can count how many goals have been met and create a paper chain with the strips. As the acts of kindness grow, so will the chain, providing a concrete measure of achievement.
6. The Goal: In My Shoes.
Bullying is sometimes the result of a lack of understanding or a lack of empathy. To build these skills, set the goal of learning more about everyone in the classroom by the end of year. One way to do this is to name a “student of the week” (or student of the day, depending on how many students you need to get through or the length of your school year). The goal of the week is to learn more about that student by the end of the week than you did at the beginning. Set a goal of how many new things the class should learn about that student. Throughout the week, students may ask the student of the week questions to get to know him or her better.
Encourage students to sit with the student of the week at lunch or play together at recess. To avoid bombarding that student, be sure to set boundaries such as: no swarming the student of the week, no talking during class time, etc. For shyer students, interactions could take place through letters, as well. Encourage the children to learn through observation as well as conversation. For example, “I observed Sophie during recess and learned that she is very good at kickball.” Make it clear that all observations and interactions are to be kind and be on the lookout for any negative interactions.
The Measurement: Provide students with a sheet of paper with two columns. One column will be labeled “What I know about BLANK” and the other “What I want to know about BLANK”. At the end of the week, write the new observations on the board and count them up. Did you reach your goal?
Though some of these ideas may seem unrelated to bullying, remember that we are trying to break the abstract “end bullying” into more tangible, concrete goals that will create habits of kindness so that bullying is no longer a go-to action for children. These goals strive to dig in and address the root causes of bullying as well as to instill habits of kindness and spirits of empathy. A good deal of bullying occurs in schools, right under the noses of teachers. We want to train children that will choose kindness, even when there are no rules telling them they have to.
As you work through these goals with your students or children, help them to understand how these smaller, short term goals can help them to reach a larger, long term goal. In addition to the measurement tools outlined above, there are many more fun, creative ways to do this! You can create charts, timelines, or even use computer programs to track your progress. Students could use observation, surveys, interviews, and a variety of other techniques to learn if their short term goals are helping them to reach their long term one.
Would you try these goals in your classroom? What new approaches to bullying prevention would you like to try in the new year? How will you measure progress? Let us know in the comments!
A New Year, A New Approach to Bullying Prevention: How Setting Small Goals Can Make A Big Difference- Part I
"If you want to achieve goals you've never achieved before, you have to do things you've never done before."
This is a quote by author and motivational speaker, Stephen Covey. To me, this quote embodies the spirit of the New Year. If you’re like most people, each year you develop a list of goals to achieve in the coming new year and, like most people, you set aside at least half of those goals by February. This regression is often chalked this up to busyness and this is certainly part of the problem; however, I would argue that the bigger culprit is routine.
When busyness kicks in, it becomes easier to stick with what we know. Upon re-entering the “real world”, we naturally fall back into our real world routines. Don’t get me wrong—routines can be great. They create efficiency and help us get things done. However, as Stephen Covey implied, routine will not create change. If we want to achieve something new, we have to do something new. The same truth applies to bullying prevention.
These new actions don’t need to be big. In fact, when setting goals with younger children, experts urge you NOT to make goals too big. At least, not initially. In a podcast for the parenting website, Kids In the House, psychologist Edwin A. Locke states that children should absolutely set goals for anything they want to achieve, but it’s important to break larger goals down into smaller, incremental goals. According to Locke, it’s also essential to track goals through measurement and to set deadlines for achievement. Because young children are still in a concrete state of learning, parents and teachers should provide consistent and visual benchmarks and evaluations of progress. Dr. Lock emphasizes:
“Make sure the goal is clear, make sure the goal has a deadline and that you measure your progress”.
These expert tips inspire the question: is it possible that this incremental goal setting is also key to ending bullying? Perhaps one reason why 25% of students are still being bullied is partially due to having too broad of goals in school. We tell children they need to “end bullying” and, while we provide them with some tools to achieve this large goal, we rarely, if ever, provide small, incremental goals that can be seen and measured to help reach that long term goal. If we, as adults, find bullying a complex issue, how must it appear to a child?
Telling children to “end bullying” is vague, but encouraging them to “Say hello to someone new in the hallway each day this week” is specific and it’s measureable. Better yet, these are goals that can be set and tracked throughout the year, not just during Bullying Prevention Month, and that is really one of our overarching goals. We want kindness to become a lifestyle so that bullying isn’t even in our kids’ vocabulary.
We want to create a habit of kindness.
January brings a new year and a new semester to begin making changes in our routines that may ultimately change our lives. If we want to see bullying stomped out like never before, we must venture to try things we’ve never tried before. Check back here next week for some specific, measureable goals to help you and your children to reach the ultimate goal: Ending Bullying Forever!!
What's something new you want to try this year? Let us know in the comments!
Have you ever stumbled across a song or a poem that perfectly captures your inner thoughts and feelings? Though sometimes viewed as a lesser genre, poetry has an incredible ability to take the most profound truths and put them simply in a way that makes sense. The rhythm and verse have a way of gently speaking to our souls and revealing things we were never able to see before.
I recently came across a poem that beautifully portrayed a unique way of dealing with bullying. The poem is Edwin Markham’s “Outwitted”:
“He drew a circle that shut me out,
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win.
We drew a circle that took him in.”
Though short and simple, “Outwitted” has undertones and intricacies beneath its surface that make it an excellent choice for opening up conversations on dealing with bullies.
First, the poem is empowering. Rather than encouraging children to ignore those who are hurting them, the speaker takes action, and that action changes things. The one being mocked takes control of the situation, not by fighting back, but by refusing to engage in war at all. Children are often told that it takes two to fight; that if they ignore the bully, the bully will get tired and ignore them too. While this is one version of “not engaging in war”, for those children being pushed down, embarrassed, and tormented every day, waiting the situation out may not seem like a bearable solution. In the poem, however, we are shown a different way of staying out of battle. Yes, the taunted one refuses to taunt back or fight back, but he is not powerless. He takes action, but it is action for the positive.
Along this line of thought, I appreciate that the focus of the poem is on the positive. An article in The Dublin Villager shared the story of Drew Jones, an elementary school art teacher who wanted to find a positive way to educate students about bullying during National Bullying Prevention Month.
He came up with a unique idea: an interactive wall where students could leave notes of encouragement for one another. Using recycled cardboard and paper towel tubes, the students went to work creating a wall that featured multiple slots to house the notes, almost like a wall of mail boxes.
The wall was put up in the school hallway and painted orange, the color of Bullying Awareness. While they worked, the children discussed bullying honestly and openly, sharing their own experiences and coming up with solutions to the issue. Months after its creation, the wall continued to be popular, needing refilled every day. “It’s awesome,” one student stated, “It says I’m special.”
Bullying is a difficult and painful topic and it’s easy to get bogged down in discussing the negative causes and effects of the behavior. While it is important to educate children about the realities of bullying, we must not forget the power of kindness and positivity in stopping the problem at its source. We need to teach our children on how to handle bullying when it occurs, but it is imperative that we also take efforts to cultivate an environment of kindness, empathy, and positivity so that bullying is less likely to occur at all.
Another fantastic aspect of Markham’s poem is its description of love as something powerful. Love is sometimes portrayed as a weakness, or as something that is soft and delicate, but the reality is that love is the most powerful tool that we have and true love is tough. True love changes lives. Many children bully because they don’t feel loved. By loving the bully instead of simply telling him or her to “stop”, we cauterize the wound instead of constantly trying to staunch the blood. It was love that prompted the speaker in the poem to act. It was love that took a situation of pain and separation and turned it into one of forgiveness and togetherness. “Outwitted” teaches children that love is strength, not weakness.
Markham also draws a connection between love and wit. Not only is love often portrayed as a weakness, it is also frequently connected with foolishness and helplessness. People fall in love, they are blinded by love, or they act unwisely because they are in love. However real, true, love, takes all the wits you have. To love someone means to care for them, to want the best for them, even when they aren’t acting very likeable. True love isn’t always easy and it takes thought and wisdom to foster and maintain. Retaliating, ignoring, or running is easy. Loving someone that is hurting you takes intelligence and clarity of mind. This poem illustrates that.
A unique facet of “Outwitted” is that, unlike many other works of literature, it humanizes the bully. It doesn’t call him names, wish a horrible fate for him, or paint him as a villain. Instead, it portrays the bully as someone who can be loved. Many children bully because they feel inadequate or isolated. By creating a circle that includes the bully, the writer is not only saying “you were wrong about me”, but also, “you were wrong about yourself.”
Teaching children to draw others in builds empathy, a core skill in preventing bullying, and provides a concrete example of empathy for children who bully, as well. Our goal should not be to simply end the bullying, but to mold children into adults that will never bully, who will choose to always consider and value the thoughts of others, and who will always try to love first.
The final strength of this poem is that it is visual. Loving someone that is hurting you or trying to view the world from their perspective can be a foreign or even abstract concept, especially to a child. However, even a child can understand the significance of drawing an inclusive circle. This could even be carried into a classroom activity to help illustrate the point.
Have students stand outside on the sidewalk and draw circles around groups of kids. Ask students to describe what is similar about everyone in their circle. Without moving, change the circles (think Venn Diagram). Have the new groups find similarities, illustrating how they all have commonalities if they look for them. Discuss how they felt when they were left out of someone else’s circle or if someone was left out of theirs. Using the poem, connect this literal drawing of circles to the figurative boundaries that are frequently drawn amongst students.
On the surface, Edwin Markham’s “Outwitted” is short and simple, but like most poems, there is a lot going on underneath. Christmas time is filled with songs and rhymes. In this season of goodwill and togetherness, I would encourage you to add this poem into the mix!
Have you read this poem before? What did it say to you? Would you use this to help prevent bullying? Let us know in the comments!
It was a simple idea thought up by a 6th grade teacher while on a bike ride, but it sparked a national movement.
In 2012, 6th grade teacher Eric Johnson noticed increasing meanness among his students. He wanted to rebuild the community his classroom had once enjoyed, but did not want to stand in front of the room and give one more lecture on bullying. Instead, he let his students take the lead.
On a sleepy Monday, as the students began their work, Johnson cleared the whiteboard and showed a video on how to stand up against bullying. The following morning, he wrote one word on the board: meanness.
As the week progressed, Johnson and his students watched more videos and had open discussions, led by the students, about how our words can affect others and define them, as well as ourselves. Together they brainstormed words that could erase meanness and replace it with kindness. At the end of the final day, the whiteboard was filled with a rainbow of kind words, all student written, surrounding the big question “How Do You Want to Be Remembered?”
Following this lesson, Johnson blogged the impact it had in his classroom and the idea spread like wildfire. Teachers around the country adapted the lesson for their own students and within two years, an entire website had been dedicated to the cause of erasing meanness. Today, people from countries all over the world can participate in Worldwide Erase Meanness Pledge Day on September 16th, joining with thousands of others to stand against meanness and stand up for kindness.
To get the full impact of this lesson, visit Johnson’s blog, which he still keeps up today, offering insights and tips for education.
Here is what I love about this activity:
1. It is easy to do regardless of location or budget. The videos are a wonderful addition to the lesson, but the whiteboard activity alone is impactful.
2. It provides an alternative to bullying. We often teach children not to bully and not to be mean, but sometimes we forget to provide them with alternative behavior. Choosing not to bully can stop meanness, but acting with intentional kindness can change lives.
3. It encourages children to draw a connection between their words and the effect of those words in a tangible and unique way. Students are constantly told to be nice, not to bully, and to stand up for one another. However, as we all know, regardless of how important a topic is, once you’ve heard it 100 times, you begin to tune it out, and even become annoyed that you are being forced to hear it one more time. But this lesson is different. In this lesson, the children take an active role in defining meanness, as well as defining kindness. They physically walk up to the board and replace mean words with kind ones. They can visibly see how small actions of both kindness and meanness can quickly add up to create an entire atmosphere of either negativity or positivity.
4. It provides a visual reminder that small words can add up to have a big impact. I think we have a tendency to believe that our words don’t matter that much. We all know that words matter in a conceptual way, but too often forget this in practice. Most of us would never berate someone to their face or outright “bully”, but we don’t always keep track of all our words throughout the day. How often have we called someone an idiot or a jerk? How often have we been short with a cashier? How often have we ranted about another person without taking the time to consider their perspective? You might say, “But they never heard what I said!”, but with each word of meanness, you are training yourself to not think the best of others. You are attaching those negative words to that person. What may have seemed like a minor slip of rudeness to you could have been the final straw in someone’s awful day or terrible self-perception. I think that this lesson created for children can also have a huge impact on adults.
5. It is age-adaptable. As soon as children can speak, they learn words that are both kind and unkind. If they cannot write yet, write the words for them, or have magnetic pictures representing words that they can manipulate.
6. Not every mean word was erased. As much as we would like to believe that meanness and bullying can be completely eradicated, it just isn’t true, and we need to prepare our children for this reality. However, as Eric states in his blog, “… kindness and caring can overwhelm the unkind.”
Sometimes it is the simplest lessons that have the most profound impact, and I believe this lesson definitely fits in that category. The fact that this idea started with one man and has blossomed and spread into a national campaign is a testament in itself to the fact that one person can make difference!
If you love this lesson as much as I do, visit Erasemeanness.org to find the full lesson plan and accompanying resources. You can also join over 30,000 others and pledge to #EraseMeanness today!
The question we'd like you to answer in the comments is:
For another way to open discussion on bullying and meanness with young children, check out our latest release, This is A. Blob.
This is A. Blob is a masterfully illustrated picture book suitable for children ages 4-8. This is A. Blob is the first of a series following the antics of A. Blob, a slimy, purple, blob-like creature who wreaks havoc on the elementary school playground with its bullying ways. As the story progresses, however, readers learn that there may be more to A. Blob than meets the eye. Along with its powerful illustrations and rhymed verse for early readers, this story invites children to put themselves in the shoes of another. The book encourages readers to consider why bullies behave the way they do – and start to consider what can be done to help
It's Labor Day!
For some, Labor Day is a day off to relax, maybe barbecue, and enjoy a day,well, not laboring. For others, it is the last hold on summer before school and commitments kick into high gear. But what is Labor Day supposed to mean? I decided to do a bit of research to find out.
According to the U.S Department of Labor: “Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” The first Labor Day celebration was held in 1882 in New York City -- a hub of industry and a shining example of the achievements of the working man. In these early days, the holiday was celebrated with a parade showing off various trades and organizations, followed by a festival for the amusement of the workers being honored. Essentially, the day was built to celebrate the working man and to give him or her a much needed day off to show gratitude for the labor which keeps America running.
Labor Day is a day to say “thank you” to America’s laborers, but how many of us take the time to show our thanks? I recently came across an article by Amy of the blog, Teach Mama, describing how she and her family decided to take their day off and make a difference. Inspired by a show on PBS Kids, she decided to make Labor Day, Neighbor Day-- a day filled with helping those nearby and making their day a little bit brighter. I love this idea, not only because it spreads kindness—something we need more of in this world—but also because it brings us back to the original intention of Labor Day—showing our love and gratitude to those around us.
To help with your Neighbor Day celebration, I have created a list of 11 easy ways to show kindness to those right on your own street:
1. Take over a pretty potted plant for them to enjoy or collect a bouquet from your own garden.
A. Blob is back, and this time it's on a bus! As the slimy bully pokes and pesters the children of Lincoln Elementary School, it seems like they will never be able to ride the bus in peace. That is, until one brave girl takes stand.
Can one act of bravery change everything--including A. Blob? Find out in this second installment of The Blob Series!
About Laughing Leopard Press
Hello! We are Laughing Leopard Press, an independent book publisher from Akron, Ohio. At Laughing Leopard Press, we’re interested in publishing works that contribute to our understanding of this wonderful world. Through this blog, we hope to add to that understanding with commentary on life, literature, and a few things in between. We hope you enjoy the blog and take some time to talk with us in the comments or on our social media sites. Happy reading!
For some more great reading, check out our latest release, This is A. Blob by L. A Kefalos. This is A. Blob is a picture book that deals with the sticky issue of bullying through an unlikely character that is a bit sticky itself! As readers follow the antics of A. Blob, they learn to put themselves in the shoes of another and discover there may be more to this bully than meets the eye…
$1.00 is donated to charity for each book sold on this site--half to St. Jude's and the other half to PetFix Northeast Ohio.
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Am I Alone? Words Of Support For Parents Of Bullies
A New Approach To Bullying Prevention: How Setting Small Goals Can Make A Big Difference Part I
A New Approach To Bullying Prevention: How Setting Small Goals Can Make A Big Difference-Part I
A New Approach To Bullying Prevention: How Setting Small Goals Can Make A BIG Difference-Part II
A New Year
Attitudes Are Contagious
Beating The Summer Slide: 10 Strategies To Keep Kids Reading All Summer Long
Beyond Bullying Prevention Month:Integrating Bullying Prevention Throughout The Classroom
Books And Food
Books That Heal
Bullying: October's Other Scary Theme
Chocolate Covered Bullying
Do Bullies Take Summer Vacation?
Every Hero Has A Story
Exercise Your Mind...Read!
Facing The Blank Page
Fear-The Master Of Disguise
Free Spirit Publishing
Go Set A Watchman
Hate Writing? This Could Be Why.
I Can Be An Upstander
In A New Light
In Another Skin
Integrating Bullying Prevention
Integrating Bullying Prevention Part I: Math
Integrating Bullying Prevention Throughout The Classroom Part II: Art
International Literacy Day
Is It Bullying?
Just-A Poem About Finding Color In A Black And White World
Laughing Leopard Blog
Laughing Leopard Press
Mom Read It
My Upstander Handbook
National Bullying Prevention Month
National Novel Writing Month
National Smile Power Day
Orange Slime!--Celebrating Unity Day 2016
PACER Bully Prevention Center
Picture Book Month
Picture Books And Bullying Prevention
Random Acts Of Kindness Week
Reading Into Thanksgiving
September Series: Integrating Bullying Prevention Part III: History
September Special Series
Support For Parents
The Case For Curiosity
The Me Inside
The Secret Life Of...
The Weird Series
This Is A. Blob
This Is A. Blob SLIME Craft
This Is...Learning To Look Beyond Labels
To Kill A Mockingbird
Too Old For Picture Books?
Too Old For Picture Books? Part II
Turning Over A Good Attitude
Understanding The Bystander Effect
When Loving Isn't Easy
When The Mask Won't Come Off
When Things Fall Apart
Women's History Month
Worldwide Erase Meanness Day