Most bullies are unhappy and have low self-esteem. They may come from an abusive home, or one where they are left alone most of the time, they.may even be bullied themselves. In any case, they have not learned appropriate behavior and may be acting in this manner for attention from anyone, even the police. The bottom line is, a bully doesn’t feel loved and we, as human beings need to understand the dynamics and help before it’s too late. Of course, the victim doesn’t feel loved either, which sometimes leads to depression, sadness, anger and in extreme cases, suicide. Too many young people are taking their own lives, we teachers are in a good position to help stop this. We need to watch for signs, listen to what our kids are telling us, and take some type of action if need be. Create positive communication channels with your class. Let them know you are there for them and they can talk about anything, even if it’s things that you find difficult to discuss. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Don’t give them double messages, it will confuse them.
An effective method for handling this issue, especially in elementary and middle school, is by using read aloud picture books. Since all of us from We Teach So Hard love our students and value their lives, we’ve decided to devote this month to the topic of bullying. Don’t forget to tune into our podcast for more great tips and ideas. Just click the image below.
Thank You Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco is a heartwarming fictional read aloud book based on a painful time in the author’s life when she had great difficulty learning to read. Trisha, a young dyslexic girl, who loved being read to and couldn’t wait to learn how to read. Sadly, when she went to school, due to her severe reading disability, was unable to learn the way most children did. Words and numbers appeared to jump all over the page making it almost impossible for her to read. The kids in class made fun of her, called her dumb and laughed at her when she tried to read. Her family moved to a different state and she hoped a new school would be better, unfortunately, kids continued making fun of her. Hence she HATED reading and going to school.
As years passed, her teachers never paid too much attention to the fact that she couldn’t read well. She seemed to get by with her art, she loved to draw and was very creative.
Finally, when she was in fifth grade, a new teacher, Mr. Falker, came to her school, Trisha was lucky enough to be in his class. He put a stop to the kids making fun of her, all except Eric, who seemed to hate her, he would pull her hair and call her names, he was a bully. One day, Eric followed Trisha to her secret hiding place, and called her all sorts of names, she just buried her head in her arms and cried. Suddenly, she heard footsteps, it was Mr. Falker who sent Eric to the principal’s office, and told Trisha, she wouldn’t have to worry about him anymore…
Mr. Falker realized she was dyslexic and with the help of a reading specialist, taught her to read. About four months later, as if a light bulb went off in her brain, the words and sentences began to take shape and make sense. She was actually reading for the first time in her life.
Fast forward, thirty years when Trisha ran into Mr. Falker, who at first didn’t recognize her, so she let him know who she was and explained how much he had changed her life. She told him she was an author of children’s books and thanked him for what he had done for her so many years ago. Without him she probably would never have become an writer.
Before reading the book, have your class sit in a circle and begin a discussion that will help activate previous knowledge about learning something new. Find out what types of stumbling blocks they’ve encountered, such as other people, bullies, etc. Let them know that these things have happened to many of us.
- To begin the talk, relate a personal experience with the aim of modeling how to make personal connections. Be aware of their sensitive feelings and ask if they can remember a time when they wanted to learn something really badly, what was it like, was it easy or difficult? Did anyone ever make fun of them, or bully them? How did they feel about it?
- Show the book cover and ask if they think their responses to the previous questions have anything to do with the story. Tell them to make predictions about what will happen in the book. You can make a chart of their responses if you like.
- As you read the story, ask the kids if they’re similar or different from Trisha and has as anything that happened in the book ever happened to them?
- After you reading, ask if any of their predictions were correct, find out if there ever was a time when they felt good or badly about themselves because of what someone else said or did. Say to them would you consider anyone in the story to be a bully? Explain.. Ask them if they ever had a teacher that they really loved, if so why was he/she special to them. Again, record responses on a chart.
- You might want come up with similar scenarios and have your class role play how one should handle a bully, and what should one do when they have trouble learning something.
- A good closing activity might be to have your class use a response journal to illustrate and write how they felt about the story. What part of the book did they like best/least and why. Would they have behaved differently? How would they have responded to the teasing and Eric’s bullying?
- You could also have students write a sentence or two and draw pictures on a time line of important events in the story including how things changed for Trisha.
Another great read aloud book called Bully B.E.A.N.S by Jennifer Cook helps tackle the problem of bullying by helping kids comprehend why someone becomes a bully and how to stop them. The experiences depicted are realistic and similar to those encountered at school, on the playground or in the neighborhood. If the kids feel comfortable and trust has been developed in the classroom, this story leads the way for some awesome discussions.
A great point to focus on, is the idea that a group of kids working together can take the bully’s power away. Get a strong rope, sheet or blanket, assign one student the role of the bully, another the victim, and three or four kids to help the victim. Begin by having the bully pull the rope from the victim, then slowly have the victim’s friends join in and pull the rope together. This will restore power to the victim. Discuss what happened and why. You want to lead them to realize that power needs to be balanced. Have them write about what they learned from this lesson/activity.
If you’re wondering what bully beans are, they’re jelly beans that are eaten to help deal with the bully. If you’d like, you can put a jar of “bully beans,” on your desk as a reminder. If a child asks for a bean, they have to tell you why they want one and how they’re going to use it. If they have journals, they could write their response there and discuss it with you later.
This post is part of our Teacher Talk Collaborative. Be sure to click the images below to read what the rest of our fab members have to say..