Column: Bully prevention at Prairie Elementary
By Laurie Knudson and Maggie Gerdes, District 518 WORTHINGTON -- October is National Anti-Bullying Awareness month. At Prairie Elementary, we have several exciting plans in place to promote bully prevention and awareness throughout this month and...
By Laurie Knudson and Maggie Gerdes, District 518
WORTHINGTON - October is National Anti-Bullying Awareness month. At Prairie Elementary, we have several exciting plans in place to promote bully prevention and awareness throughout this month and throughout the school year.
Let me first define bullying. Bullying is any unwanted, aggressive behavior toward others that involves a power imbalance, either real or perceived. A person is being bullied when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to these negative actions. We have to keep in mind bullying is a repeated action not a onetime incident whether it occurs on the bus, playground or within the school. Often times we have to educate our students as well as parents in this. It might be that someone has been mean to them or not been a good friend, but it doesn’t mean it’s bullying. We teach there is a difference between bullying and conflict with another person.
When bullying occurs, we want our students at Prairie Elementary to be empowered to use bully prevention techniques. The goal in bully prevention is not just to help kids be aware, but to teach new habits . Kids need to know what to do in social situations. Children gain confidence when they learn that nonviolent bully prevention techniques work, particularly when they are used in a setting where there is adult encouragement and support. As school counselors, we teach different strategies to the children when we go into their classrooms and talk about bullying and prevention.
At Prairie Elementary, we promote bullying prevention in several ways: Prairie’s rule guidelines include BE RESPECTFUL, BE RESPONSIBLE and BE SAFE. Along with school-wide expectations throughout the building, we speak to students about the importance of being assertive should bullying take place. There are three steps we want kids to follow when bullying occurs. 1.) Kids should feel empowered to walk away from their bully with their held high; often removing the bully’s target will take away the bully’s power. 2.) Kids should use their words to tell the bully to stop, tell them NO in a firm voice. Other things they could say are “Cut it out,” “stop it,” “quit it” or “knock it off.” 3.) Kids should never hesitate to get help from an adult when dealing with situations where they feel uncomfortable or unsafe.
This year we have decided to wear blue on Mondays in October to spread bullying awareness and challenge students to make a friend with someone they don’t know at school. We will also encourage them to be a leader, take action and don’t let anyone at school be in isolation. There are so many resources for parents to get more information. One we’ve run across recently is www.stompoutbullying.org; there is quite a bit of useful information there. They can always call us here at school, too, with questions they might have.
In addition, our teaching and support staff have been trained in the Responsive Classroom approach to teaching. This overall philosophy encompasses the belief that student achievement happens best within a positive social context. Responsive Classroom techniques set the classroom climate and create guidelines for classroom management. RC is a program that builds community in classrooms by emphasizing the students’ hopes and dreams and building a foundation for rules, motivation, and discipline. The students learn to care about each other by practicing CARES; Cooperation, Assertion, Responsibility, Empathy, and Self-Control. The CARES Model encourages students to begin developing key social skills necessary to be socially and academically successful. Through the community building efforts that begin on the first day of school in every classroom, children feel a sense of belonging that helps to eliminate bullying.
We always take a proactive approach to bully prevention within our school. Classroom units have been created that include building skills of empathy, kindness and social skills including conflict resolution. The mission of our classroom guidance is to teach students those new habits. We include several books and activities that help students internalize a sense of community and skill building. Some titles include “Enemy Pie” (kindness/friendship), “Odd Velvet” (empathy), “Bully Beans” (bully prevention) and “The Juice Box Bully” (empowering kids to stand up for others). When we go into the various classrooms, we complete skill building activities with the students according to their developmental level.
There are so many things we do to be proactive throughout the year to continuously promote programs that teach bully prevention. In addition, we create conversations with students to help them gain confidence to stand up to bullies and stand up for each other.
Laurie Knudson and Maggie Gerdes are professional school counselors at Worthington’s Prairie Elementary.