It was one of those days I was a substitute teacher, taking a class at a school and I was quite taken aback by an incident that happened in the school. As it turned out, it was not a very pleasant experience. A young student approached me and shared her experience regarding bullying that had disturbed her.
As it happened, one of her classmates was bullying another student during the recess. She told me that the one bullied asked her if it was wrong that he was born and that one of the students stated that ‘he should have never been born’.
In order to understand the situation better, I tried to discuss the same with the other students. The one accused of bullying informed me that, “Yes, I was mean to him, because he said mean things to me.” “He said I think I’m cool but I’m not, and that I play with my hair too much, and I am a girl”. I then talked to the other boys to get the complete picture. As I suspected, both of them had said mean things to each other, trying to Put-down one another and that there were other boys involved in the incident, but some reason the boy named only one. I learned that this back and forth behavior has been going on for almost a year.
The full-time teacher for whom I was substituting had earlier briefed me about the inappropriate and conflicting nature of the conversation amongst boys who seems to be friends. She told me that such incidents start off as fun but many of them escalates into fights. Since I was to substitute her for the day, she had allotted time toward the end of the day for me to conduct a classroom seminar on “Strategies and Alternatives to bullying each other in class and on the yard”. I suggested to her that, I could do an Appreciation Circle activity around Put-Ups vs. Put-Downs. I told her about my experiences growing up and being in “capping” sessions, where my peers and I would take turns to verbally attack each other. A lot of times these sessions would turn into serious fights.
I had the whole class divide into groups of four and take turns giving each other put-ups. They had to find something nice, or encouraging to say about each other and get used to the way they felt giving the put-up and receiving the put-up.
Appreciation circle turned out to have a positive influence on the students. Not only they were looking for something appreciable in others, but also more importantly they were learning to look at the ‘Glass half full rather than half empty’. This is one small focused measure ASK Academy takes that helps our students to find ways to build peace among peers on a daily basis and to ignore confrontations that lead to nowhere.
What are some strategies that you utilize for addressing school-yard or classroom bullying?