Wednesday, May 30, 2012

When Judges Bully Students

How to Stop Bullying in Schools

Judge Lanny Moriarty jails 17-year-old Diane Tran for missing school because she had to feed her family.
Diane Tran is an honor roll student who is serious about grades--her younger brother is number 8 in his class, and she wants to help him do better. In fact, 17-year-old Diane takes care of her siblings by doing more than just helping with homework. She works two jobs to keep food on the table. And Judge Lanny Moriarty put her in jail.

He wanted to make an example of her, he said.

Texas laws dictate that a student shall not miss more than 10 days of school in a 6-month period. But after Diane's parents divorced, it was up to this child to provide food and pay for bills.

That's not how Judge Moriarty saw things. He saw an adult--17 being legal adulthood in Texas, apparently--and he feared that if he did not put Diane Tran in jail, then an onslaught of truant teenagers would follow her example.

So from Judge Moriarty, all of you 17-year-old kids out there who are working 60-hour weeks to keep food on the table while still making some of your classes and getting A's on your tests, you had better not miss 10 days of school. Because there must be a wave of kids in exactly that position just waiting for a good excuse to miss a class.

You can read the full article here: http://www.latimes.com/news/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-texas-honor-student-20120529,0,589866.story



Preservation Hall: Warren East High School


When your school is used as a shelter and your students have no homes, achieving 96% graduation and only 1% dropout would be impossible. But Warren Easton High School is not interested in the impossible. They are only interested in how to help every student succeed, and when they do that, 96% suddenly becomes more than possible--it becomes a reality.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Proven Effect of School Culture on Bullying

Doctoral Research on Bullying, Pt. 2

By DJ Skogsberg, Ed.D.

School Culture - Visions, Missions, and Touchstones

Doctoral research on school culture and bullying - doctoral research
Practitioners and researchers have consistently opined that a shared vision of an organization at its inception is what allows an organization to grow and thrive. Fullan, et.al. (1990) noted, specifically, that this is the foundation of school improvement. Synonymously, the State University of New York at Albany noted that the “district-level vision is clearly articulated in terms of what it looks like in classrooms and how it will affect student achievement” (Wilcox and Angelis, 2007, p. 19), thus guiding school improvement in terms of both culture and academic performance. Elbot and Fulton (2008) specifically identified the differences between a vision, mission, and touchstone. The vision of an organization “states its goals” where as the mission of an organization “states the purpose of the organization.” A touchstone, however, “expresses the ‘how’ of the organization” (2008, p. 18).

Schein, as cited in Kariuki (2008, p. 25), defined culture as the “deeper level of basic assumptions, values, and beliefs that become shared and taken granted for as the organization continues to be successful.” Logically, then, the vision, mission, and touchstone are interwoven threads that shape and form the tapestry of the school and is known as the school’s culture. School culture is something that is felt. More specifically, school culture is something that can be observed. Think of each component as another lens of focus with which to look through. Observing goals through a global perspective emphasizes the codependency. Goals are driven by the mission, and the goals drive the mission. The touchstone, however, is not long term in its focus like its counterparts-the vision and mission. Elbot and Fulton posited that the touchstone is, “both academic and ethical-that a school community seeks to develop in its members, and it serves as a guide for daily thinking and action” (2008, p. 2). In keeping with the analogy of a tapestry, the touchstone is the common thread that holds the culture together and takes its community members to task.

Some recent action research supported this premise. One of the premier districts in implementing touchstones, Summit School District in Frisco, Colorado, took the lead to “incorporate a shared set of universal values and aspirations for all members of the school community” to hold the district together and “keep them focused, even during turbulent times” (2009, p. 1). The distillation of each school’s touchstone included the collaboration of all stakeholders, especially the active participation of students. Appelsies and Fairbanks made specific note of student ownership within the culture of a building, quoting students in their observations, “[t]his is where we work together” “[t]his is where we help each other,” and “[t]his is where we conversate” (1997, p. 70).

The action research by Appelsies and Fairbanks (1997) noted that part of what we called “school culture” and “student ownership” in the building was reflective of a fostered, democratic environment, a premise that was of vital importance for adolescents to experience as they lived through this stage of intellectual maturation. The fostered, democratic environment linked the aforementioned needs of developing adolescents. The question remained then, how did each stakeholder play a role in school culture?

Change of School Culture & Change in Theory:

With any change process, there is an inherent feeling that something is “wrong.” Simpson echoed the connotation “that culture and change are antithetical, that change threatens stability, predictability, and comfort of the culture” (1990, p. 35). Fullan (1993) emphasized that if the change process was addressed as a political process, what stakeholders faced was stagnation, frustration, discontent, disconnectedness, defensiveness, and superficial changes that resulted in a return to the status quo.

Change, while constant, is not nearly as difficult for adolescents as we educators claim it to be. Children, even those wrought with significant physiological, psychological, and sociological shifts (i.e. adolescents) are still malleable and able to be guided through these changes.

Ownership, Empowerment, and Stakeholders:

If we recognize that the change process as a whole, let alone the change of a school culture, is an ongoing process-a living entity analogous to the concept of the Constitution of the United States-then we have to accept that culture and the process of change must be nurtured. Research repeatedly noted buy-in from all stakeholders and lists those in the school community as administrators, teachers, non-certified staff, parents/guardians, and community members. Unfortunately, and of particular concern for the children impacted by this perceived bias, the students were consistently ignored, yet they were impugned for changes while being excluded from the change process itself. This seemed to be in direct contradiction to published research by Fullan (1999) which focused on collaborative cultures that fostered diversity while building trust, provoked anxiety and contained it, engaged in knowledge creation, combined connectedness with open-endedness, and fused the spiritual, political, and intellectual (p. 37). How can we possibly foster collaborative cultures when students are not given ownership in their school, in part or in whole, with any initiative?

Dorman, et.al (1985) raised this point regarding adolescents and their role in schools and developmental needs, which specifically called for “diversity, self-exploration and self-definition, meaningful participation in their schools and communities, positive social interaction with peers and adults, physical activity, competence and achievement, and structure and clear limits” (p. 46). Research conducted by Way, Reddy & Rhodes (2007) emphasized the tenet that students’ beliefs during middle school years formed the base from which they would grow into adulthood and be positive or negative. This was specifically true as it related to students perceiving a sense of autonomy and having the opportunity for autonomy. The researchers found “the intercept of opportunities for student autonomy was significantly associated with the intercept of depressive symptoms and self-esteem and the intercept and slope of behavior problems” (Way, Reddy & Rhodes, 2007, p. 206). This direct correlation between student autonomy and behavior problems indicated that there was a significant impact on school culture whether or not students perceived that they had autonomy. The key was that the students had the opportunity to be autonomous. Way, et.al. emphasized that “students’ beliefs of the school climate appeared to be important not just during the transition from elementary to middle school, but also during middle school itself” (2007, p. 209).

Taking the First Step:

There is clearly no simple answer to addressing bullying. We continuously see adults modeling bullying behavior for children. And so, if we must begin with a first step, let it begin with us. Be the model held to the higher standard, performing well above the expectations you have for your students (or children). Empower students to take an active role in their school by granting them ownership in their actions, the actions of their peers, and the consequences (good, bad, or indifferent) that naturally follow. Stop marginalizing children. If we want students to step up, sometimes it requires of us to give them a boost. And so, if the first step in stomping out bullying rests on the shoulders of the adult stakeholders, the real question is, do you have the courage to “take a step off the porch” (Poole, 2003)?

Download the research and works cited here: http://www.schoolimprovement.com/docs/120526-Bullying-Beyond-the-Playground-for-School-Improvement-Network.pdf

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For more information on bullying prevention and available resources to support your efforts, sign up today for the FREE professional development webinar for educators presented by the School Improvement Network, Bullying: Understanding the Problem, Defining Solutions on May 30th 2012, 3:00pm with Robin Young of the National Crime Prevention Council.

Click here to register for the FREE webinar:http://www.instantpresenter.com/AccountManager/RegEv.aspx?PIID=EA57D783884f

Adolescents and Their Social Development

Doctoral Research on Bullying, Pt. 1

By DJ Skogsberg, Ed.D.

Introduction / Foreword:

how to stop bullying in schools - research in adolescent developmentIn this, my second blog for the School Improvement Network, I was thrilled to see the opportunity to take bullying, and in my perspective, the culture of a school, head-on. Let me first be clear that the professional experiences I have had with school culture are directly related to middle level schools, which in turn, lead me to conduct doctoral research on improving school culture through the empowerment of students to ensure ownership in their learning environment.

What follows is a portion of that research in support of making positive changes to address bullying through establishing ownership in school by empowering students as active stakeholders.

Finally, it is noted here that while a lot of adolescent behavior can be connected, through research, to actual developmental stages in life, it is no excuse for anyone’s behavior in bullying any other individual.

Adolescents and Their Social Development:

George and Alexander’s extensive research into adolescents and their impending development led to the establishment of moral developmental levels and stages. In their text, The Exemplary Middle School (2003), George, seen as one of the foremost experts on middle schools, and Alexander, known as the “Father of Middle School,” noted that at the middle level. We could see any one of three developmental levels and/or six developmental stages as identified by Kohlberg:
  • Level One: Preconventional
    • Stage One-Punishment and Obedience: literal obedience to avoid punishment
    • Stage Two-Individual Instrumental Purpose and Exchange: serving one’s own or other’s needs for personal benefit
  • Level Two-Conventional
    • Stage Three-Mutual Interpersonal Expectations, Relationships, and Conformity: the desire to please others and conform to perceived norms of right and wrong.
    • Stage Four-Social System and Conscience Maintenance: doing one’s duty to preserve the social order
  • Level Three: Post-Conventional and Principled
    • Stage Five-Prior Rights and Social Contract: commitment to relative social order; rules may be changed if needed
    • Stage Six-Universal Ethical Principles: action determined by conscience, based on self-chosen ethical principles (George & Alexander, 2003, pg. 16-17).
Through their research, George and Alexander ascertained the moral developmental level of middle school students, noting:
  • some will demonstrate a predominance of Stage 1;
  • near age 10, some begin to enter Stage 2;
  • middle school students are typically thought to be in Stage 3; and
  • a very small population of middle school students will move into Stage 4 during their middle school years.
Considering Kohlberg, George, and Alexander, Berndt’s 1979 research on the role of youth development identified specific correlations between adolescents and their developmental changes in conformity to peers and parents. Specifically, adolescents were more apt to conform to peers and peers’ wishes than the wishes of their parents or other adult figures. This corresponded to the Stage 2 service of one’s needs or the needs of others for personal benefit versus the more advanced Stages 3 and 4 approach of conforming to norms of right and wrong, or doing one’s duty to maintain the social good is one of the main reasons why we see a preponderance of bullying at middle level schools. The research indicated that adolescents were more likely to side with peers and peer requests than the requests of the adult figures (parents, guardians, teachers, administrators, etc.). Behaviors researched were categorized into three compartments: neutral, prosocial, and antisocial. Of alarming rate was the growth of adolescents (children in grades 6 through 9) conforming to antisocial behavior. Commensurately, there was nearly an equal level of decline in this negative behavior in later adolescents (grades 10 through 12) (Berndt, 1979). Feldman (1970) identifies the need of adolescents to be “permitted to experiment partially and somewhat leisurely with the obligations and privileges of adulthood… to alleviate such stresses” (Feldman, 1970, p. 2).

A more recent study conducted by Crick and Dodge (1994) examined “global cognitive constructs such as perspective taking, role taking, and referential communication” (pg. 74). Crick and Dodge identified four mental steps that children took prior to participating in social behaviors “(a) encoding of situational cues, (b) representation and interpretation of those cues, (c) mental search for possible responses to the situation, and (d) selection of a response” (1994, pg. 74). Again, research by Bandura and Schunk (1981), through Stanford University, opined that “[b]y making self-satisfaction conditional on a certain level of performance, individuals create self-inducements to persist in their efforts until their performances match internal standards. Both the anticipated satisfactions for matching attainments and the dissatisfactions with insufficient ones provide incentives for self-directed actions” (1981, pg. 586). What is emphasized in Bandura and Schunk’s research is the notion that competence and self-efficacy are developed through self-motivation. This means that students, particularly adolescents, improved their interest in doing what was right as a result of the perceptions held in the direct link to the results. One may then surmise that as adolescents develop, when given the opportunity to personally connect to their own experiences through individual and group ownership, the results of undertakings were improved.

Research by Berndt, et.al (1979), and subsequently by Steinberg and Silverberg (1986) indicates that students, when given the opportunity to make a choice in a presented hypothetical scenario, adolescents (referred to as “youngsters” by Steinberg and Silverberg) came to differing conclusions which were dependent on the perception of whom the student was trying to please. In the cases where the same scenarios were presented, students often opted to seek peer approval versus adult approval. When considering peer to peer decisions, adolescents were more likely to choose a result more pleasing to close friends (or best friends) than to another peer with whom the student was acquainted. This information led me to indicate the correlation between the theoretical work conducted by Kohlberg (1981) and George and Alexander (2003), and that of the quantitative research conducted by Berndt (1979), with supplemental study by Steinberg and Silverberg (1986).

This research is supplemented by recent research conducted by the Office of Adolescent Health (2011) as well as a meta analysis by James Burns (2011). Burns notes, “School districts now have to budget for bullying programs. That’s tax dollars that get spent just trying to make sure that people are treated with resepect. Something we should all do freely, without the imposition of consequences” (2011). Consider this when “60% of middle school students say that they have been bullied” (Burns, 2011). With the expansion of this research, the indication is that there is far more verbal bullying (and one of the most difficult to substantiate and address) than physical. In most cases of non-physical bullying, it is the girls whose behavior stands out, as in most cases of girl on girl bullying, it is done covertly and in packs through “emotional violence” (Hardcastle, 2012).

Catalano, et.al. (2004) indicated a distinct difference between bonding to an entity, such as school, versus attaching oneself to a committed social network. Consideration of this research deconstructed the socialization process into four key processes: “1) perceived opportunities for involvement in activities and interactions with others; 2) actual involvement; 3) skill for involvement and interaction, and 4) perceived rewards from involvement and interaction” (2004, pg. 252). This research, again, supported findings by Berndt (1979) and Steinberg and Silverberg (1986) in direct correlation to Kohlberg (1981) and George and Alexander (2003). In 1994, Crick and Dodge focused their study on children’s social adjustment examining perspective taking, role taking, and referential communication. Dodge’s previous research noted that when children were “faced with a social situational cue, [they] engage[d] in four mental steps before enacting competent social behaviors” (Crick & Dodge, 1994, pg. 74). As described in previous studies, when students were afforded the opportunity to make decisions, they did so. As has been discussed, the indication was that decisions made were connected to peer relations versus adult or parental relations. In summary, these theorists and researchers appear to describe an environment built upon a foundation of empowering students by giving them ownership in their learning community.

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For more information on bullying prevention and available resources to support your efforts, sign up today for the FREE professional development webinar for educators presented by the School Improvement Network, Bullying: Understanding the Problem, Defining Solutions on May 30th 2012, 3:00pm with Robin Young of the National Crime Prevention Council.

Click here to register for the FREE webinar:http://www.instantpresenter.com/AccountManager/RegEv.aspx?PIID=EA57D783884f

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Can Anti-Bullying Safeguards Go Too Far?

How to Stop Bullying in Schools

How to Stop Bullying in Schools - Can Anti-Bullying Safeguards Go Too Far?
By Kathleen Benson, National Crime Prevention Council

Last week we spoke about implementing anti-bullying programs in our schools and addressed some challenges around making those programs a success. Sometimes implementing a bullying prevention program requires the support of the school board, Department of Education, and even the state legislation before it can achieve the desired results of the program. In 2010, New Jersey passed the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act to update its bullying prevention legislation from 2002. Partially inspired by many high-profile youth suicides as a result of bullying, including that of Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi, the Bill of Rights quickly gained notoriety as being the strictest anti-bullying law in the United States. Taking any measures to protect our students against bullying and aggression is a good thing, right? Some educators and administrators disagree, saying that the legislation has gone too far.

Cons to the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act

The new legislation includes a lengthy list of additional requirements for schools. Educators and other school staff must report any instances of bullying known to them, on or off campus, if the incidences cause disruption with school operation; failure to comply will result in disciplinary action. Strict timelines were instated for reporting incidents to the principal, who then has a deadline to address and resolve the issue. Another challenge with reporting is determining if an altercation is bullying or a conflict. Inability to distinguish the two may result in additional reports that must be completed. Time used to focus on bullying identification, reporting, and resolution takes away from other issues with which students need assistance.

An initial concern with implementing the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights in schools was the financial burden associated with it. Schools are required to attend trainings and create programs, but were not provided additional funding to support these efforts. In March 2012, Governor Christie remedied the problem by amending the legislation to include $1 million dollars for grant funding in the Bullying Prevention Fund. Grants will be distributed to local school districts that have exhausted all other free training options. How much additional work will be required for districts to examine and exhaust free training options? While the grants will help take the financial burdens off of school districts, will it be enough? Is $1 million dollars enough to spread across all the school districts in the state? Only time and experience can give us the answers we’re looking for.

Pros to the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act

Implementation of any new program takes time, money, and adjustment to change. The Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act requires schools to take measures against bullying that prior to the law, may have just been a dream. Financial decisions on how to use money in a limited budget can leave desired programs and trainings by the wayside. Now trainings to keep all school educators and staff abreast of bullying prevention techniques are mandatory. Parental involvement in school activities has always been a challenge for schools, but now in compliance with the new law, schools must create and implement a safety team of parents and school staff to investigate reported incidences. Data isn’t available yet on the effects of the law, making it hard to determine if it will have a positive impact on school climate and bullying incidences. For now we can take comfort that New Jersey schools are combating bullying with full force.

In December 2011, the New Jersey Department of Education released a guidebook on the legislation, discussing the expectations and requirements of the law and how to implement it in your school. If you think that your school could benefit from having the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights implemented, click here to learn how to start that process.
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For more information on bullying prevention and available resources to support your efforts, sign up today for the FREE professional development webinar for educators presented by the School Improvement Network, Bullying: Understanding the Problem, Defining Solutions on May 30th 2012, 3:00pm with Robin Young of the National Crime Prevention Council.

Click here to register for the FREE webinar: http://www.instantpresenter.com/AccountManager/RegEv.aspx?PIID=EA57D783884f

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Many Fronts of Bullying

How to Stop Bullying in Schools

By Mojdeh Henderson, assistant principal, Jay M. Robinson Middle School

How to stop bullying in schools - bullying destroys a child's ability to focus in school
I feel that bullying is an issue in our schools that impacts students in a variety in ways: from their ability to focus in the classroom, to their feelings about themselves, to the overall school climate. My concern is that bullying is not addressed in the home where students learn appropriate and inappropriate social interactions. Children many times do not believe that put downs, insults and gossip damage their peers and their relationships. They view it as just part of middle school and not a “big deal”.

However as a society we know that there can be minor and major impacts to bullying: from avoidance of school, self isolation to depression and even suicide. This issue is of major importance to all schools in America. As an administrator it is my responsibility to ensure that instances of bullying are addressed. As a district and a school we have a no-tolerance policy towards bullying and work to counsel bullies and bring their parents into the discussion. Many times bullies do not stop at the first consequence and more severe consequences need to be issued. We must continue to address issues of bullying. In many instances parents and students attempt to handle the issue on their own and then make the school aware when they are frustrated. Early intervention is the key so that bullying does not escalate.

As a society the issue of bullying must be addressed on multiple fronts: in the home, the classroom, the school and the district. Character education and empathy need to be taught so that students develop sensitivity towards others and understand how their actions and words impact their peers. This also needs to be modeled in the home and mandated by parents as the only option of behavior. If parents and schools can work together we can bring about a decrease in the amount of bullying within our schools.

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For more information on bullying prevention and available resources to support your efforts, sign up today for the FREE professional development webinar for educators presented by the School Improvement Network, Bullying: Understanding the Problem, Defining Solutions on May 30th 2012, 3:00pm with Robin Young of the National Crime Prevention Council.

Click here to register for the FREE webinar:http://www.instantpresenter.com/AccountManager/RegEv.aspx?PIID=EA57D783884f

My Bully Is Not Your Bully

How to Stop Bullying in Schools

By Tresa Magee, Assistant Principal, Phillis Wheatley High School

How to stop bullying - by and large, bullies don't use physical means to intimidate other students.
As a 45 year old African-American female, my perception of bullying is vastly different from those acts of bullying that takes place today in 2012.

As a child, my bully was someone who, for whatever reason, decided that I should not participate in any of the campus’ “Reindeer Games,” and my bully made certain to spread the word to my peers in hopes that I would never be given the opportunity to participate. There were definitely days when the bully’s wish came true, and there were days when it did not. The irony of the situation is, although I was shunned on the school’s play ground, away from school, whether it was a game of street ball, or a series of STOP sign relays, I was ALWAYS a member of a team: not to mention, winning team.

I will admit that the treatment I received, while a little girl growing up and attending school in Mississippi, made me feel as if I was an outsider and un-liked. I had grown to hate RECESS because it was the time of the day that I was ridiculed and made to feel worthless.

Today, as an administrator in the largest school district in Texas, I witness and am privy of acts of bullying that actually makes me gasp for air.

Just recently, I handled a situation of Cyber Bullying that was multifaceted and that had been ongoing for at least four years. The situation had come to a “head” within the last five to six months, and was reported to administration. Fortunately, once reported, the situation was resolved within a few days.

Needless to say, some resolve was reached and all parties involved are safe, secure and mentally as well as physically, intact.

What is so astonishing about this incident of cyber bullying is the fact that my school’s principal found it very difficult to grasp. Not because of the intricate details involved, but rather because it was Cyber Bullying. The principal had expressed that cyber bullying was not an issue that he had ever experienced personally nor had he ever dealt with such. He could not fathom how cyber bullying came to be, nor could he fathom how the Information Highway and all that it entails could be the vehicle of such malice.

Bullying can affect anyone: It can and will rear its ugly head to the valedictorian as well as to the football jock. Mean and intentional ugliness is spewed to the “out crowd” as well as to the “in crowd”. No one has immunity. If a person comes into contact with another, then he or she is susceptible to being bullied.

The realization that my bully was and is unlike the multifaceted bully that today’s student experiences grounds and forces me to come to turns that bullying has been around for ages and that it recreates “itself “with each new invention and technological or biological advancement.

The challenge ahead of us: Awareness and acceptance that the “art form” of bullying exists, and becoming proactive in the realization and elimination of such a demon. We as administrators, as teachers, as parents/guardians, as counselors and as club/organization sponsors must actively seek information and programs that promotes awareness.

We mustn’t turn a blind eye to that which we are unfamiliar. We must arm ourselves with knowledge and must actively disseminate gained knowledge to our kids, to our students and to our community.

The remedy: directly facing the challenge(s) that lie ahead with a continuous forward movement. If we take proactive and precise measures, we will have taken the first steps to combat societal issues that plaque our classrooms and that carry over onto our play grounds. The key is to be persistent and relentless in the fight to recognize, understand, resolve and eradicate the actions of the bully; thereby dismantling the being of such a bully.

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For more information on bullying prevention and available resources to support your efforts, sign up today for the FREE professional development webinar for educators presented by the School Improvement Network, Bullying: Understanding the Problem, Defining Solutions on May 30th 2012, 3:00pm with Robin Young of the National Crime Prevention Council.

Click here to register for the FREE webinar:http://www.instantpresenter.com/AccountManager/RegEv.aspx?PIID=EA57D783884f


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Overcoming the Challenges Faced in Implementing Bullying Prevention Programs in Schools

How to Stop Bullying in Schools

By Robin Young, National Crime Prevention Council 

The National Crime Prevention Council presents the most salient points concerning how to stop bullying in schools in this blog post.
For more information on bullying prevention and available resources to support your efforts, sign up today for the FREE professional development webinar for educators presented by the School Improvement Network, Bullying: Understanding the Problem, Defining Solutions on May 30th 2012, 3:00pm with Robin Young of the National Crime Prevention Council.

Click here to register for the FREE webinar: http://www.instantpresenter.com/AccountManager/RegEv.aspx?PIID=EA57D783884f

Bullying has become a critical issue among schools everywhere. As educators attempt to get a handle on the growing concern, many attempt to implement bullying prevention programs on school grounds. However, the implementation of such programs is often met with a number of obstacles, including student participation, funding, and deciding what’s the right program for your school and students. Yet, as we move toward developing comprehensive bullying prevention practices, there are a few key strategies that we should all keep in mind.

Finding the right program

Creating a program that addresses your school’s unique concerns is of vital importance. The first step in doing so is to conduct a two-tiered assessment process that will guide the development of bullying prevention strategies. The first tier should involve surveys that reveal information about the school’s social climate, while the second should identify flaws in security equipment and procedures. Development of any action plan designed to address bullying should always begin with an assessment. We can’t solve the problem, until we define it.

Student participation

Student participation is critical to the successful implementation of any bullying prevention program. It is important that students feel empowered and engaged in the action planning process and that they share the responsibility for creating environments in which they can learn and thrive. Getting students involved and excited about taking part in a bullying prevention program will ensure that the program works to its full potential and that they can identify and address concerns that are most important to them.

Keeping it a priority

Maintaining a program’s importance after the excitement has settled is a major challenge that schools may face. Periodically updating a program with new ideas and incentives can help keep up the momentum and excitement for both students and educators. Whether a program is structured or unstructured, school leaders can find different ways to keep the program relevant. From creating a poster contest to structuring an assembly focused on bullying, be creative in your efforts to keep students motivated toward bullying prevention.

Creating an open environment

Overcoming the unspoken rule among students of “no snitching” may stop even the most successful bullying prevention program in its tracks. Bullying is a tough issue to face, so it is important to create an open environment where students can express their feelings and concerns in a confidential and comfortable environment. All teachers and administrators should be well educated on the topic of bullying and be prepared to assist students in successfully putting a stop to bullying. Giving students realistic tips and advice is an important step toward bullying prevention. When students feel that a strategy actually works, they are more likely to use that strategy again and again.

Cyberbullying in Schools, at Home, and in the Community

How to Stop Bullying in Schools

 By Trey Crews, former principal of Clarksburg High School, TN

How to stop bullying in schools - cyberbullying is not unique to schools; cyberbullying occurs in the workplace and in the community.
As administrators know, sometimes more often than not issues we deal with start away from school but inevitably end up in our office, commonly Monday mornings.  A parent may bring a photocopied Facebook page of comments another student has posted about his/her child and expect us to deal with it.  We may tell the parent that because this incident occurred outside of school, we are not going to address it and they need to contact their local law enforcement. Generally if we don’t, usually a problem will occur from this that becomes school related, so it would be better to address it at the beginning at least monitoring the situation more closely even though it started off campus. You would be wise to apply the old saying “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure” as you consider how valuable is your time. 

Not only does bullying occur in the community with students, sometimes it also occurs with adults in the workplace.  So we know bullying is all around us and can take on many forms, and can be a very deceptive monster.

One way it can be deceptive is students’ misuse of technology. This is a main reason why most school districts hesitate to allow or put limited restrictions on personal communication devices and other advances of technology in schools.  Some peoples’ misconceived mindset when using technology is that we think we are alone but in reality we’re more exposed publicly and comments and actions are more concrete than ever.  As far as cyber-bullying or technology use goes, there needs to be a push for students to learn appropriate ethics when using this tool.

My philosophy as administrator on the topic of bullying is that we must be progressive. It may seem to some that this can be time consuming but in my experience to be reactive to situations concerning bullying can devour extreme amounts of time.  A step we took was to place an anonymous suggestion “bully box” in hall by the school counselor’s office, to let us be aware of situations that can be monitored.  Also a progressive step to aid prevention is having a strong school counseling program and the teachers and principal getting involved in students' school life through interactions by creating a healthy professional relationship with the students.  When dealing with a discipline problem or a bullying situation, sometimes we will just sweep it under the rug or let it go this time, because our patience has run out and we just don’t want to deal with it. Most often when it happens, it come back to bite us, those small issues are now out of control.  Teachers with the help of students are really the front lines on combating bullying. Our counselors are instructing students how to spot bullying and what to do. Administrators should allow training for teachers to be receptive to their students’ conversions and body languages.

I know our goal is to stop bullying and even in a “bully free zone” we should not think that we have annihilated bullying because when we do, there will always be transit students or even the exception to the rule, some situation that we have not thought of yet. So be sober and vigilant.

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For more information on bullying prevention and available resources to support your efforts, sign up today for the FREE professional development webinar for educators presented by the School Improvement Network, Bullying: Understanding the Problem, Defining Solutions on May 30th 2012, 3:00pm with Robin Young of the National Crime Prevention Council.

Click here to register for the FREE webinar: http://www.instantpresenter.com/AccountManager/RegEv.aspx?PIID=EA57D783884f

Monday, May 21, 2012

Teach Your Children to Dream

How to Stop Bullying in Schools

By Alicia C. Shaw, Ed.D,  principal, Gideon #37 Elementary

how to stop bullying - children are like a river: uncontrollable and always on the move.
The prevention of bullying is not about control, discipline, adding rules, policies, consequences, etc. (which we all know are designed to make the lives of adults easier). Preventing bullying is about empowering all students with knowledge, encouragement, understanding, compassion and tolerance. Most bullies are simply children who have been bullied themselves and often by an adult. They feel a loss of control in their own lives, so they attempt to find control by whatever means possible. By helping children understand the only person they can control is themselves, we can help them discover positive attributes they all possess.

Everyone wants to say that children are our most valuable asset. This is not true, assets are material objects. Children are our lifeline. We as educators must strive every day to build the hopes and dreams of our children. We tend to focus on negative things and look for new ways to dish out punishment and control behavior. It is the same concept of control for us. Teachers can’t control behavior any more than kids can control other kids. We have to spend more time understanding behavior instead of trying to control it.

Asking all children to fit a “mold” of rules and policies is like asking a river to control the flow of water. It is not possible. We have to see children as individuals with hopes, dreams, difficulties and frustrations. The choices we make and the words we speak may mean the difference for a child having a life of fulfillment or a life of difficulties.

Teach your children to dream. Our dreams are not just the thoughts that roll around in our heads everyday, they are what gives us hope that tomorrow will be better. If we help all children, including the bullies, realize their dreams, then we give them hope. By giving them hope, we take away the hurt that causes them to bully others. Your bullying policies should reflect positive approaches to children. If you do this, you won’t have to worry about bullies. They will become the leaders of the future. Have faith in a child.

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For more information on bullying prevention and available resources to support your efforts, sign up today for the FREE professional development webinar for educators presented by the School Improvement Network, Bullying: Understanding the Problem, Defining Solutions on May 30th 2012, 3:00 p.m. with Robin Young of the National Crime Prevention Council.

Click here to register for the FREE webinar:http://www.instantpresenter.com/AccountManager/RegEv.aspx?PIID=EA57D783884f

Effects of Bullying After 48 Years

How to Stop Bullying in Schools

By Martha McAdams, principal, Sebastian Charter Junior High

How to stop bullying in schools - victims often don't know that they are a target. Forty-eight years after this principal's experience, she discusses the ramifications of bullying.
I was in the seventh grade and was sitting in Mr. Stamp’s social studies class. The teacher was outside in the hallway disciplining a student. A classmate, MM, told me he didn’t think I could make the same gesture he was making with my hand, I didn’t know what it meant and I showed him that indeed I could make that same gesture and a lot of his friends around us laughed. This type of baiting went on for several weeks. Finally, one of my classmates told me it was an obscene gesture and to never make it again. This was the beginning of MM’s harassment, but it was certainly not the end. All through junior high there were many days that MM would torment me.

It continued in high school but wasn’t as often when I became a senior and was elected an officer in several organizations. There were days that I didn’t want to go to school. There were days that I cried at school and many more days that I cried after I got home from school.

Some of the specifics have faded away with time, but the scene in Mr. Stamp’s classroom is still crystal clear in my mine. I can tell you where he sat and where I sat and where the clock was on the wall in social studies class.

You might think that this happened just a few years ago. No, this happened to me, 48 years ago. The hurt is less now. I am a successful person. I was lucky. I had friends and a family that loved me and supported me. I never told my parents or any teacher about the way I was treated. I didn’t know it was wrong for someone to get their jollies at my expense.

I became a teacher. I always looked out for the child that was a little different. I would not tolerate teasing or any form of bullying in my classroom. Now that I am a principal I do not tolerate any form of bullying at our school.

I have empathy for the students who have been picked on or make fun of at other places. This school is a no bullying zone. We teach students not only what to do if they are being bullied, but what to do if they see someone making fun of someone else. If you see it and don’t do anything about it, you are not being a responsible citizen. Everyone needs to be proactive, teachers, parents, administrators and students. Speak up so no one has to live with memories that last a lifetime that are anything but pleasant. I was lucky, mine were only minor emotional scars that eventually healed. I am lucky because I have a staff that is proactive about keeping bullying out of our school. Make every school a no bullying zone; teach all students what to do. Remember to treat everyone with respect so you can respect yourself.

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For more information on bullying prevention and available resources to support your efforts, sign up today for the FREE professional development webinar for educators presented by the School Improvement Network, Bullying: Understanding the Problem, Defining Solutions on May 30th 2012, 3:00pm with Robin Young of the National Crime Prevention Council.

Click here to register for the FREE webinar: http://www.instantpresenter.com/AccountManager/RegEv.aspx?PIID=EA57D783884f

Friday, May 18, 2012

How "Bully-cide" Affects Us All

How to Stop Bullying in Schools

By Keith Besses, Principal at Van Zandt-Guinn Elementary School, Fort Worth ISD

How to stop bullying is not as easy as it had been in the 1970s.
When I hear the word bullying, I think about the episode of “Good Times,” an African-American series during the late 1970s where the youngest character, Michael Evans, comes home every day from school starving. The Evans later discovered that Michael is being bullied at school by an older boy. The mere innocent portrayal of bullying in this episode pales in comparison to the idea of bullying today. Bullying is defined as a form of repeated aggressive behavior manifested by the use of force or coercion to negatively affect others. The aggressive behavior can be in the form of physical, verbal and emotional abuse.

Bullying became an international awareness campaign during 2000 – 2010. According to the US Department of Education, 75% of children aged 8 – 11 years old have been bullied and this percentage increases to 86% for children aged 12-15 years old. Effects of bullying include loneliness, social isolation, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and an increased risk of suicide (known as bullycide). Since 2000, it is estimated that 15-25 children commit bullycide per year.

This statistic is not only alarming but paralyzing. The average classroom consists of 15- 25 children. This statistic overrides the cliché sticks and stones may break my bones but talking doesn’t hurt me. Stopping bullying encompasses the attitude that it takes a village to raise a child re-enforced by a strong positive environment of home, school and community.

The non-traditional home structure has deeply affected how some children progress and interact socially. The home is where children are first communicated family, spiritual and societal values. Parents and guardians must step up and take the role of parenting more seriously and make it the main priority in the home. Children are dying because of negative talk and behavior.

As stated earlier, since the majority of bullying incidents occur at school, the school has been thrust into the role of prevention when its primary role should be re-enforcement. Now, it is the understanding that the school being a diverse setting cannot re-enforce the value system of all households but the school should re-enforce values that emphasize consideration and compassion towards others. Repetition works effectively with children.

The third component of the strong positive environment is the community which includes extended family, neighbors, religious institutions, businesses, and mentors. Each component must take an active role in caring about the well-being of a child that they are in some form of contact with on a regular basis. All it takes is one person to take an interest in a child’s life to build self-esteem and increase their self-worth.

The affects of being bullied are also characterizations of the bully. Bill Cosby said it plainly, “hurt people hurt people.” When we decide as a society to create an environment where we practice the Golden Rule and treat others how we want to be treated, then we can significantly impact bullying cases and save one classroom per year at a time.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

More Than a Paycheck: Teaching in New Orleans


What would you do if your class sized burgeoned to 45 and continued to grow and shrink as hurricane victims came and went? What would you do when you have a class full of students who may not have eaten that morning? What is your motivation?

For Katie Fone, a 3rd grade teacher in New Orleans, Louisiana, teaching was more than collecting a paycheck. We hope you enjoy this video about a teacher whose position is not just a job, but a passion.

How to Make Your School Bully Proof

How to Stop Bullying in Schools

Amy E Bainbridge, GT Coordinator
Campus Middle School

Bully proofing beyond the classroom…umm bullying is such a problem in our nation’s schools. We like to teach students the golden rule, “Treat people the way you want to be treated!” This is great when you are dealing with a student who isn’t a bully! I read somewhere about implementing the platinum rule, instead of the golden rule. The platinum rule is, “Treat others the way THEY want to be treated.” This helps change our bullies’ thinking. Think about it, how many times have you told a kid, “Treat this student the way you want to be treated.” And what do they say, “I wouldn’t care if someone did that to me.” “I would think it would be funny if someone did that to me.” The problem here is that the person getting bullied doesn’t think it is funny and does care that it happened to them. At this point we change our words and say, treat others the way THEY want to be treated. Alice doesn’t like it when you do this, so please RESPECT her wishes. You might not care but she does!

Another thing that has worked is incorporating three basic school rules. The three Be’s! Be Safe, Be Respectful, and Be Responsible. Anytime a student does anything, inside our classroom, out on the playground, in the hallways, we can ask them, “Are you being…safe…respectful…responsible? The kids can internalize their behaviors and own them. I use it all the time in the classroom. A student is tipping in their chair. I don’t have to tell them to stop tipping; I ask them if they are being safe. If not, please fix it. The students own the choice & have more power over their choices (or so we let them believe that they have the choice).

The platinum rule and the three Be’s are steps to help bully proof our schools.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Does the Bully Know You Care?

How to Stop Bullying in Schools

Martin J. Hayes, House Principal
Central Bucks High School East

Care. C-A-R-E. Care. Our children need to know that we care. They need to know that we care to protect them, shelter them, feed them, listen to them, talk to them, hug them, help them, teach them, challenge them, inspire them, believe in them, cherish them and love them. Our job as adults, whether we are teachers, parents, counselors, administrators, or any adult in a child’s life, doubtlessly involves many things that we “have to do,” and in most cases many things that are very important and meaningful. We cannot, though, allow these things to stop us from responding to and fulfilling our children’s needs.

It is only when we put our children’s needs at the forefront of our priorities that we will build trust in them and be able to help them work on becoming the wonderful young men and women that they can be.

Bullying is not an issue of who is right, who is wrong, or who is to blame, but an issue of what can we do to prevent it. Our children who are bullied need our help, and so do our bullies.

I am a grown man. The only movie I ever cried for was Rocky I. I wept this past Monday. I wept as I viewed ABC’s list of Philadelphia’s thirty most wanted. I wept because each of these young men was once a student in your class, in my class, a student, a child of ours. These young men are our “bullies.” Where did they go wrong? Where did we go wrong? Now I am not saying we all need to be softies, but I am saying that we need to reach out, reach out until we can’t reach any more to let all of our children know that we care. Could we have saved these children? I don’t know, but I’ll never stop trying.

And our bullied children…they need to know that we care. We care about how they feel, how being bullied makes them feel, and beyond that, how we care about them for who they are and what they like, how they feel and who they like. We need to express interest toward their interests and let them know, consistently, that they are more important than all of the “things” that we need to do.

Care.

Giving Our Children the Safety They Deserve

How to Stop Bullying in Schools

Cynthia Durham, Supervisor
Casey Co. Board of Education

As educators, bullying is one of the most serious challenges we face in our schools today. It is often a hidden problem despite the widespread and serious nature of bullying. The reason for this is many times teachers/principals don’t take the offense serious; they view it as a normal part of growing up and students must learn to stand up for themselves. This is just one of the many views we must change as we strive to rid our schools of this very serious problem that can lead to life-long consequences, even death.

Also there are so many forms of bullying from physical, to verbal, to the newest cyber bullying, that we can’t monitor all the ways children can harass other students. This is why it is so important for schools to provide a range of activities to reinforce the anti-bullying theme. Some examples of what schools might do, include holding assemblies to discuss the types of bullying, why it is important to report any incidences you may witness, and the schools anti-bullying policy; display posters throughout the school, a contest where students design anti- bullying slogans for buttons, shirts, or posters; and students take pledges to vow never to bully or do hurtful things to others.

We must also provide our staff with professional development so they are prepared to deal with bullying issues, how to counsel students who have been bullied, and training on a curriculum to use with students to help reinforce the use of cyber bullying and its effects on students. Safety is very important to our students as they strive to attain their education, and it takes an entire school community to work together to ensure our students are safe and secure in the school setting.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

7 Steps to Eliminating Bullying

How to Stop Bullying in Schools

Gisele James, Administrator
Par-Excellence Academy

There are 2 parts to our anti-bullying program.

Part A:
The first way our school stopped students from bullying was to empower the students. Two 4th grade girls who were in great conflict and had an entire class involved. I sat down with these girls in my office and we discussed many of the issues causing problems. They both agreed to stop bullying each other and I decided to talk to the class as we determined the other students liked and encouraged the drama. When I went to the classroom the girls courageously stepped up and talked to the class about how they felt about rumors, gossip, and friend flipping. So began the most powerful anti-bullying program I have heard about. Stop Student Bullying (SSB). The whole class agreed to be an SSB member. Well that led to the whole school wanting to do it. The SSB had a schoolwide contract signed that the two original girls put together and a daily cheer we do to support our efforts. I have found that students have the answers and need to be a part of the solutions.

Part B:
The second way our school stopped bullying was by creating more structured recess—as many bullying activities happened during recess. We created activities that were organized and teachers led to help blend students who may have not interacted with each other if not guided to do so, providing a more monitored environment for students to interact with each other.

What we learned (the 7 steps):
1. Ask students when, where and how bullying occurs. (Have an adult facilitate.)
2. Have students develop a contract on anti-bullying.
3. Do support activities that are student led: cheers, posters, stickers, etc.
4. Encourage all grades/all students to be a part of the program.
5. Have staff show their support to students.
6. At recess divide students randomly in groups and assign a teacher to a group with an organized activity.
7. Make sure students are given appropriate games to help them interact.

Both programs together have made a huge difference. Students now are discussing issues and trying to work out their problems instead of suffering in silence. The students feel empowered to create a environment free of fear.

During lunch and recess many students have created clubs like dance club, origami club, and clean earth club to share their interests and be included in a group. Almost every day I get comments from students who feel better about school.

Creating a Schoolwide Anti-Bullying Initiative

How to Stop Bullying in Schools

By Jaime Stacy, Ed.D.
Assistant Principal, Salem Middle

As an administrator in a large school system (around 55,000 students), I was invited to be part of a taskforce to examine the bullying issue and lay the framework for a system-wide bullying initiative. While I wasn’t surprised to find that the schools within our division were doing different things to address bullying, the diversity and depths of the programs, methods, and interventions were surprising to me.

We decided as a team to start from the ground floor and construct a framework schools could then use to address bullying within their own building. Research on the subject showed that many of the best practices to combat bullying were closely related to the same techniques being used in schools implementing the Effective Schoolwide Discipline (ESD) model.

The ESD liaison for our school division was invited to become part of the taskforce and has helped to guide our thought process to exploring the following artifacts as we construct the framework:

• Surveys – Staff, parent, and student surveys related to bullying, school safety, and school climate

• Student discipline data – Focus on location, time of day, type(s) of bullying occurring

• Documents and materials pertaining to programs/initiatives already in place

While establishing this framework will aid in our endeavor to combat bullying in our schools, it is only one piece of the puzzle. Strong building-level leadership and stakeholder buy-in are key components to the effectiveness of any program, especially one that has the potential to create a drastic change in the culture of a school.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Anti-Bullying Pledge for Students

How to Stop Bullying in Schools

By  Kirk Dunckel, principal

This middle school's anti-bullying pledge has answered how to stop bullying for these students.
Chief Kanim Middle School, Washington
At our school each Fall we have every student sign an Anti-Bullying Pledge Sheet. We take the time to meet with each class and review Respect and Responsibility expectations. We cover the different types of bullying and how deal with it as a victim and bystander. The Pledge Sheets work great when bullying occurs we pull the students Pledge Sheet and have a dialog with the student(s) about what they can do better to live up to their pledge. Our Bullying has dropped significantly. Another thing we have done is to create Anti-Bullying posters for our school with our students on the posters. Having our students faces on the posters has added a real sense of ownership to creating a Bully Free environment.

We believe that every student should enjoy school equally, and feel safe, secure and accepted regardless of color, race, gender, popularity, athletic ability, intelligence, religion, nationality, or any other qualities.

The situations will vary from student to student. We did have an issue with a group of boys teasing another boy at their lunch table. The student did everything right by trying to ignore the teasing and then reported to me. He shared names of the boys and I pulled their pledge sheets and we had a talk about what it means when you pledge something and then sign your name to it. They agreed they could do a better job and would do a better job living up to the pledge they signed. I had them re-date it and re-sign the pledge form. We have not had any issues with this group and the teasing of the boy since.

Chief Kanim Hawk Pledge

We, the students of Chief Kanim Middle School, agree to join together to stamp out bullying at our school.

We believe that everybody should enjoy our school equally, and feel safe, secure and accepted regardless of color, race, gender, popularity, athletic ability, intelligence, religion, nationality, or any other qualities.

Bullying can be pushing, shoving, hitting, as well as name calling, picking on, making fun of, intimidating, laughing at, or excluding someone. Bullying causes pain and stress to victims and is never justified or excusable as "kids being kids," "just teasing" or any other rationalization. The victim is never responsible for being a target of bullying.

By signing this pledge, I agree to:

1. Value student differences and treat others with respect.

2. Not become involved in bullying incidents or be a bully.

3. Be alert in places around the school where there is less adult supervision such as bathrooms and hallways.

4. Report honestly and immediately all incidents of bullying to a staff member.

5. Talk to school staff and parents about concerns and issues regarding bullying.

6. Work with other students and staff to help the school deal with bullying effectively.

7. Be a good role model for other students and support them if bullying occurs.

I understand that if I am demonstrating bullying behaviors and do not stop them immediately, I will be held accountable for my actions by the staff and students of Chief Kanim Middle School.

I also understand that if I witness bullying behaviors and do nothing to eliminate the problems, I am encouraging a bullying environment to continue at our school.

Signed by: __________________________ Date: __________

Print name: __________________________

Click here to download the Anti-Bullying Pledge.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Bullying or Growing?: Bullying Is Not Always What It Seems

How to Stop Bullying in Schools

By Scott Thomason, principal

Not all bullying is what it seems. There is a difference that educators must know between tatelling and bullying.
As countless real-life stories can attest, bullying is an increasingly pervasive and destructive effect of our ever-expanding reality. Unfortunately, as with any mainstream issue, it is neither new nor as pervasive as most parents would have the media believe.

I do not doubt for one moment that it is not occurring regularly, not only my campus, but on campuses across America. After having fielded hundreds of calls from outraged parents over the past five years, however, I can attest that what a parent calls "bullying" is nothing more than the results of the natural development of kids.

I watch students at lunch every day, chasing each other, grabbing back packs, smack talking, and even, at times, tackling, hitting, kicking, and even throwing things at another student, but, is this truly bullying? In the vast majority of cases, the answer is NO! We have a litmus test here at my school that we use with parents and students to determine when an issue is or is not bullying: Is it unwanted? Is it ongoing? And most importantly, is it one-sided?

An issue we deal with regularly is when the parent of a “bullying victim” comes to us demanding justice because their child is being harassed, bullied, picked on, etc. And we have to tell them, “This is the first we’ve heard about it.” So, we also regularly educate our students on the importance of notifying someone when they perceive they are being singled out. But, due to the anti-snitch mentality, we almost always get blind-sided by out-of-the-blue allegations that, upon further investigation, fail one or more facets of the litmus test.

We are almost always confronted with the reality that little Johnny was playing around with a friend who either got mad or got carried away and did something harmful to hurt him. Of course, that doesn’t keep the parents from believing that we are doing nothing and that her child’s school is unsafe. I always have to tell the parent that unfortunately, you weren’t there, I wasn’t there, and the only ones who know the truth are telling different stories.

So, does bullying exist? Yes. Is it a problem? Yes. Does that mean that every parent’s fears are coming to pass and that the world is out to get their little baby? No. 99% of the time, it is about the choices a child makes, whether to talk or not talk, tell or not tell, play or not play, be a victim or stand up for themselves. Until the time comes when we stop falling victim to our own actions, we will ever be faced with bullies.

Best Practices? Ask the Customers!

Student Achievement Best Practices

By Teresa Bunner, Teacher

student achievement best practices greeting students at the door

A while back, Domino’s Pizza ran a series of ads in which they presented clips of focus groups giving honest opinions about how to improve their product. Anyone familiar with the customer service world recognizes this is a standard practice.
So, I am always amazed that when we talk about student achievement best practices, there is very often a key contingent of voices missing from the conversation- students. Our students, each unique individual who enters our room, tell us what our best practices are, if we are willing to listen.

For twenty years I have had the privilege of working with students in elementary, middle and high school. I avidly pursue professional development and belong to many professional organizations. But the most successful changes made in my classroom have been informed and guided by listening to my students. And while ages and locations have changed, their list of best practices echoes some of the same ideas over and over. Their list is extensive, but I have found three that seem to be simple yet often are dismissed because they don’t appear to be “instructional” practices. However, my kids tell me time and time again that it is these basics that make a difference for them. Here are their top three:

1. Greeting Students- As a student teacher, my master teacher encouraged me to greet my 9th graders at the door. Being the master teacher, I followed her advice. The following year in my own classroom, I continued this habit, never fully understanding the effect until the last day of school when sweet Ana handed me a folded note. “You will never know how much it meant to me to see your smiling face greet me at the door each day,” she wrote. She went on to talk about how some days she was stressed or afraid she would be late to class, but she knew it would be all right when she rounded the corner and saw me. From that moment, I knew this would always be a part of my teaching.

Over the years, my students have come to expect this from me. I can remember one day a young man raced into the room to find me on the phone. He loudly exclaimed, “Man! I thought we had a sub ‘cuz you weren’t at the door. Don’t scare me like that, Ms. B!” I love, too, when my students take it upon themselves to help me with or assume this duty and greet their peers at the door. Just that few minutes before class sets the tone for our learning community.

2. Names- “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name…” sings Gary Portnoy. And the voices from my students over the years echo this sentiment. Names hold such power. Recently I had a conversation with a young man who was frustrated with a classroom teacher. His whole life he has been called by his middle name, but, despite repeated requests, this teacher continued to call him by his first name. He felt disrespected and had begun to pretend he did not hear the teacher call him. For him, this became a classroom where he felt unvalued and “invisible”. Over and over I have had students share frustrations with teachers who don’t know their names or mispronounce names. A seemingly simple strategy, yet one that holds such power.

3. Inviting Student Voices- I am reminded time and time again when I talk to students how vital this is. In a strategic reading class I taught to 9th graders, part of the final was a letter to me in which they evaluated how they had grown as a reader. One question asked students to suggest changes to the course. One student responded, ”Why haven’t we been writing letters like this all semester?” And thus, our class Lit Letters were born. Strategies like class meetings and lit circles are other examples of ways to build student voice into classrooms.

Often the very answers we seek to improve our practice are right there before us. How will you invite your students’ voices into your learning community?

Teresa Bunner currently works as the Academic Support Specialist for the Blue Ribbon Mentor Advocate program in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. She spent the previous twenty years as a classroom teacher and reading specialist at the elementary, middle and high school levels. She loves working with young people on their learning journey.