At the Council for Prejudice Reduction www.cprnys.org we applaud all conversation that helps children and adults become more helpful and less hurtful. Special kudos to the UFT and team for developing a case management model. Teachers cannot be alone in this effort. Those who teach, counsel and discipline within and beyond the classroom can succeed by aligning their practices through a shared purpose, common vocabulary and shared approach. In this way, the combined and measurable effect is positive behavior change...otherwise known as learning. :)
We are concerned that the teacher in this story reported that she worked carefully with the target of the bullying, but did not report working with the students who were tormenting the child either through bullying, harrassing or demonstrating typical bystander indifference or vicarious pleasure at her suffering.
This child should no more develop a tolerance for bullying than battered spouses or children should develop a tolerance for being hurt at home.
In this particular case, there is a curriculum-content-based option the teacher could use, including but not limited to the evidence that all human beings come from Africa, are profoundly affected by Africa, that Africa is the home of abundant and beautiful resources (including people) and that every continent and country is equally and different valuable. It is an opportunity for all the students to learn that calling someone 'African' is a compliment, and any of us would be lucky to be so connected to such an amazing continent rich in so many resources, countries and cultures. Everyone's background should be framed as a source of pride and dignity, and everyone in the school community. This is something we need to teach, share, encourage, etc., so tolerance, interdependence and dignity are as much a part of daily life as brushing our teeth.
In addition, we could teach all the people involved that the words we use and actions we choose show how we feel about ourselves in the moment. All those mean words and actions say nothing about our target, and everything about us. If we try to make someone feel stupid, then it means we feel stupid at that moment and we just need some help to learn how to feel that way without hurting anyone. We all feel stupid or ugly or unlovable at some point. We just need to surround ourselves with positive people and see ourselves as interdependent with all others, so we can find the words and actions to express our feelings in helpful rather than hurtful ways.
We approach bullying as a verb more than a noun, since many children bully episodically, while others bully chronically. We help the targeted children understand that, if they were not in this setting, the people who bully would try to bully someone else. That proves that the target is not the cause.
We do note that bullying is a typical but unacceptable form of expressing feelings of fear, anger, control, sadness, betrayal, etc. Targets are not responsible for bullying they experience. Targets can certainly develop strategies to protect their hearts, reach out for help and demonstrate confidence that adults and fellow students will keep them safe.
We establish that people who bully/try to scare us/try to make us feel bad about ourselves are usually scared and/or feel bad and haven't yet learned how to express fear in positive ways, so they try to make someone else feel afraid. The same is true for bystanders. It is our job to help people who bully develop Behavior Replacement Plans (R), so they can develop and leverage their own social resources, strengths, goals and skills to replace their impulse to bully with words and actions that are helpful instead of hurtful. We also establish that hurting others hurts the person who bullies. There is much evidence to support this.
Connecting Character to Conduct, a systemic, practical and proven approach to helping educators use direct instruction, counsel and support and discipline to help students practice using helpful, interdependent words and actions to express their thoughts and feelings. http://www.ascd.org/publicati...
We start on the premise that school is a learning team, and that every day is game day and every night is practice. We have a long record of helping students use such core values as respect, impulse control, compassion and equity (r) RICE (R) to fulfill their roles as powerful members of their learning team, so they advance the shared purpose of school in ways that make their own dreams come true. We do construct t-charts listing how we know we are saying and doing things that show respect and other core values, not matter how we feel. These are just some powerful tools available through the Council for Prejudice Reduction, where I serve in a volunteer capacity as the Executive Director. Feel free to friend me on FB or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org