Tag Archives: Bullying

Back to School: Conversations with Kids about Safety and Speaking Up

Preparing for the start of the school year seems even more somber this year than others. Florida just had its tax-free weekend and parents were no less aggressive about stocking up on supplies. But, all of us, at some point, looked at a pencil pouch among our stacks of spiral notebooks while snagging glue sticks on the way to check out and wondered if our children would really be safe.
None of us needs to watch the news in order to understand the anxiety that many children, parents, and educators feel when thinking about the start of a new school year after the horrific violence so many students experienced last school year.
And, yet, it’s there, coming straight toward us.
Anxiety Looms
The opinions and arguments about who ignored what in the recent school shootings riddle the news and the Internet. In hindsight, anyone would have done more if they knew there would be this kind of violence targeting schools.
I know, when thinking of my own students this coming school year, I just want them to feel safe with me. To just tell them this would be pointless. They won’t be able to look at me and think, Yeah, this teacher’s tough. She can deal with a school shooting, no problem.
I certainly pride myself on being a strict teacher simply because I can’t stand it when kids bully each other; however, my demeanor isn’t at all tough even if you stuck me in a security guard uniform. Then again, I don’t know that many people, let alone school children, have much confidence in security guards at this point.
Ultimately, I think it comes down to dialogue and taking the time to actually, yes, literally, really, genuinely care. Enough teachers and educators just don’t care and the students know it. The fact is that teachers are human and have an extremely stressful job.
Ensuring SafetyTalkSchool
Here’s the thing, any school worth its salt will be putting together several plans to maintain a secure environment as well as other important safety precautions.
But, dialogue, conversations between the administration, teachers, parents, and students will create a powerful bond and help everyone deal with their concerns and outright fears instead of hiding them.
CBS News addresses dealing with students’ concerns in How to Talk to Kids about School Violence.

Reminding students that they do have control over what happens to them and that they are in a safe environment in general gives them a sense of peace in the midst of an already stressful circumstance.
Many schools encouraged student Walkouts last school year, giving students a much needed voice at a time when so many were left speechless not just because of the violence inflicted on students but the repeat violence. Just watching the news and listening to the fears of the students involved in the shootings caused students across the country to worry about their own safety.
Speak Up
Students know that they are returning not just to schoolwork and homework but also to gossip, bullying, and social interaction that some love but most have a hard time dealing with in one way or another.
They need to talk to someone about their worries, so it’s important to ask questions as teachers and parents and then to listen and reassure them that there’s no reason to believe that their school will be attacked. However, if there is a reason to believe that, then students need to be encouraged to speak up.
They especially need to feel safe when speaking up. So many students don’t want to “tattle” or “rat out” other students because they are the ones who have to deal with the insidious ways bullies operate.

Don'tLet
Watch Out for Bullying
Students experience bullying in various degrees and forms on a daily basis and often don’t speak up about it for fear of being bullied even more afterward.
A former teacher, school counselor, and school administrator wrote a good piece titled Bullying: What Schools, Parents, and Students Can Do for the Huffington Post.
Often enough, students handle the bullying themselves thinking of how much worse it would be if they were to ask teachers or administration for help.
But, students need to know when to get help. That’s something they need to be allowed to figure out for themselves.
That’s why there needs to be multiple conversations every day between teacher and student and student and parent and student and student and school counselor and student and administrator and student and right back to teacher.
And, it shouldn’t stop there. The whole of our communities need to look and listen. Ignoring problems often makes them worse.
Conversations 
Conversations need to happen often and need to be ongoing and available. The teachers are asking students how they are, if they got sleep, why they didn’t do the homework, why were they late? That’s just the basics.
There will be rules, oh so many rules. There is and will be security. Then, there’s life.
Students may not roll their eyes to your face, but they’ll definitely do it behind your back and then some if they think you’re anything less than genuine.
In other words, they aren’t stupid enough to think that if they simply tell on a bully that, poof, they’ll find themselves in a magical world of unicorns who fly them away to a cloud city with no guns and only sparkly do-gooders. For the most part, they wouldn’t even want that.
So, when you strike up that conversation, be ready to talk about everything… oh yeah, and be ready to talk about nothing at all, especially if it’s a tween or teen.
Then, try again tomorrow.

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International Day of the Girl

Today my daughter spoke to a group of middle schoolers about bullying. She had originally created an anti-bullying campaign for the elementary students at her school. When the principal of the middle school saw the posters and asked her to speak to the middle schoolers, this ten-year-old girl spoke passionately about standing up for yourself and doing what’s right.

Afterward, students came to her to thank her for speaking out.

Bully Buster
By Daisy Maldonado

All children should be able to do this.

International Day of the Girl.

Back to School, Back to Bullies

Back to school bullies conjure up all sorts of images. I still remember my first beating, girl-style. I still cringe when near a school cafeteria–that loud clatter of trays, sharp voices stinging my ears, and the mean girls.

The Art of Punching with Words

You remember don’t you? She walks up to you in the lunchroom, her pretty teeth flashing from beneath a sweet smile, a bow in her hair. You think, “Wow, I’m so lucky. She’s trying to make friends with me.” You smile back.

But, there’s nothing nice about her smile. She’s only practicing her punch. She plans to use you to make herself more powerful.

Girls punch each other with words.

Masked Teaser Supervillain
Artwork by Daisy Maldonado

“Hi,” she pauses, ”Look, I don’t want to hurt your feelings or anything, but your food smells. Please stay away. Why don’t you move to the other table. Thanks.”

Her question is a command.

She says it all in an even tone with a slight whine on the “Thanks.”

She’s clearly mastered the art of punching with words. Her victim usually bows her head and moves away, sitting alone at another table for the remainder of the school year.

Girl power packs a deeper punch.

Bully Buster Superhero
Artwork by Daisy Maldonado

With all the girl power in the forefront of the news and media, no one seems to get to the core of a very real divide among women and girls. Mean girls still rule the roost.

My daughter learned this first-hand last year.

My daughter had grown taller than the rest of the fourth graders. She preferred boy shorts instead of skirts and tiaras. Oh yeah, and she liked to eat.

All this of course made her an easy target for mean girls.

They started surreptitiously.

In the mornings, they pointed out a flaw, which wasn’t really a flaw. “I like your ponytail.” Then POW, “Oh my god, look. You have a bump in your hair. Let me fix it for you.”

Then they fumbled with her hair until she marched off to the bathroom and ripped her ponytail out of her hair. She then let her hair hang walking with her head down becoming the monster they wanted her to be.

Bullies love lunchrooms.

Gossip Girl Supervillain
Artwork by Daisy Maldonado

Her worst nightmare lived in the lunchroom. When she unpacked her lunch, a chicken sandwich, they held their noses and slid away from her. “Your lunch smells. I can’t stand it. Go to the other table,” they whined.

Those few sharp words effectively damaged her self-esteem and isolated her at the same time. She didn’t want to be around them, and she definitely didn’t want to eat.

I felt so frustrated when we’d get home and she’d be starving, gorging down any morsel in sight.

But, later, in that quiet space right before bed, she told me why she did that. She said she was afraid they’d make fun of her again.

I then became her shoulder to cry on with bits of advice along the way.

Punch back.

Bully Buster Advice
Artwork by Daisy Maldonado

So, this year, she plans to fight back with her anti-bullying campaign. She created a poster depicting a bully-busting superhero resembling wonder woman.

Most likely, she’ll become an even bigger target because she’s fighting back in a loud and clear way.

They will talk. And, they will do it with those same spiteful yet artful words.

You know what I’m talking about. Look around you, the gossip of mean girls still streams over the Internet, the television, the news. Everybody listens and often enough everybody follows. Why do you think so many girls and women attempt the daunting task of wearing skinny jeans?

But, this time, my daughter will be better prepared to deal with the backlash of a bully backed into a corner. She’ll know what it feels like to take a punch and she’ll be practicing how to bounce back.

And, me, I’ll be there to catch her when she falls or at least pick her up, brush her off, and give her a shoulder to cry on.