No Bully Zone

two young girls laughing behind another girls backA good friend of mine—Cynthia Gustavson—published a book a couple of years ago called Bully!: The Big Book About Bullies and the Bullied.  It’s a great book of drawings, poetry, and exercises for students of all ages.  Cynthia’s a poet and psychotherapist with uncommon insight into the emotional effects of this destructive behavior on both bullies and their victims.  Her work has inspired me to lead my junior English class through a unit on bullying with a goal of creating student anti-bullying presentations to be shown school-wide.

My class and I first took the Upstander Pledge at The Bully Project.  We watched the documentary “Bully” last week and students created posts about bullying for our class blog.  This week students will begin creating anti-bullying presentations using free online/software multi-media applications.

It’s estimated that nearly a third of all teens have experienced bullying, and victims are much more likely to commit suicide than non-victims.  While the schoolyard bully who intimidates younger students to steal their lunch money is a common image of bullying, today’s bullies are just as likely to be lurking online.  A cyberbully is  as dangerous as a physical bully–maybe even more so.  When hurtful messages or photos are posted online, the victim may have no control over who has access to them or for how long.  Suicides resulting from cyberbullying have increased alarmingly in recent years, and I want my students to not only be aware of the problem, but to be part of the solution.

Unfortunately, some of the applications I hoped to let my students use are blocked by our district network, but there are still some great web 2.0 tools or free applications available.  These are the ones I’ve recommended:

The great thing about this project is that what my students produce this year can provide learning opportunities to students in future years.  Youth are much more likely to attend to messages delivered by their peers than by teachers or other adults, and this message is much too important to be dismissed as just another teacher lecture. I want our school to be a “No Bully Zone.”

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