Thursday, 23 April 2015


I have been thinking about the past couple of days of how to #makeschooldifferent. I read this post via a twitter here. The original question was:

When it comes to education, what are 5 things that we have to stop pretending? 

The main idea I had, came after careful consideration for several days. It was one I was pretending didn't exist. It is not just about education, but about what is happening in our schools.

We need to stop pretending bullies are not really out there.
In teacher's college I remember hearing people discuss bullying. I am really sad to admit that I rolled my eyes. I heard stories of students not wanting to come to school. Stories of physical harm, mental stress and even suicide and I still shrugged it off. I am really ashamed to admit that now.

I currently have two bullies in my classroom. TWO. I teach teenagers so I can tell you that I have dealt with attitude, eye rolling, drama, fist fights and a reluctance to work. None of this compares to dealing with a bully in your classroom. They are real. They can destroy any given day, at any given time for not just one-but the whole class. They have the power to make your classroom feel unsafe-no matter how many community circles you have.

We need to stop pretending, that we know what to do with a bully.
After it was discovered that the two in my classroom are truly bulling others, I wanted to weep. In my own room I have students not wanting to come to school because they are uncomfortable, afraid and scared. 
We have watched bullying videos, we have created challenges about bullying, we have explored bystander effect, we have vowed to stand up for each other and we have worn pink shirts. Yet for some reason-the bullying is continuing. I sat in my staff room and asked for help. What do we do with a bully? Seriously. What can other professionals suggest? I researched it on the trusty ol' internet. I discovered rather quickly-that many people don't know. There are some suggestions but no real answers. We need to stop pretending that we know what to do with a bully. 

We need to stop pretending and excusing behaviour due to a bad home life.
I get it. There are many kids who truly are given a rotten deal. They have really bad home lives. Does this excuse what they do to other kids? One of the responses to the bullying situation that came up in my classroom was:

"Well, student's name's parents are going through a divorce so he is just taking it out on other people. He is having a hard time with it."

I am sorry to every little Johnny and Sally who have difficult times. I am. Does this give them a reason to tell other people in my classroom they are fat? flat chested? steal lunch money? push them off their scooters? No. Nope. Not at all. Yet.......???

We need to stop pretending that it is okay that kids are treated the way they are because it is a natural part of childhood.

Where is the line between being playfully teased by your peers and being bullied? How many times as a teacher have I brushed off a student's concern because I deemed their issue/concern as a part of childhood?  I have a knot in my stomach at this moment thinking about it. I have done that. I have passed judgement on someone's concerns because I felt that it was okay. WHAT? We need to stop pretending it is okay. When a student says that it is not okay-it is NOT OKAY.

We need to stop pretending to believe that students are coming forward about being bullied. 
I have been back to work for just three and a half short months. I have known for several weeks that I have some students who are mean to others. They have been mean. I have taken proactive steps to combat the issue. Team building, tribes activities, tried to build a community culture in the classroom and build relationships with students. I thought it was okay. I thought it had improved. 

Then-one very brave student emailed me. It was late and with the encouragement from her mom she came forward. A student that I had no idea was going through what she was. If she was....who else? 

I asked. I asked them to admit on paper what was happening and who was doing it. Then I asked them not to attach their name.  You can be brave behind anonymous.  It was then: that it was revealed. Bullying right in front of me.  

We need to stop pretending. 

These are my five things that I am grappling with lately to #makeschooldifferent. What are your five?

If you have any advice about how to handle bullies in my classroom. Please pass on resources and links. Just remember that it is a serious issue that is moved beyond hugs and rainbows. 


  1. ugh. this gives me a heavy heart. I think all bullies need to be pulled from classrooms and made to hang with eachother.... but what does that teach. Simply...bullies need Christ. In a secular school I have no idea how to combat it. By the time they are teenagers it's hard to know or do anything to fix why they are bullies and yet.... I have seen fixed bullies. I have seen bullying stop. But it hurt a lot of people along the way. So sad for you Maria.... I will pray for your classroom.

  2. This is a powerful post. I think sometimes we just think that bullies are just part of our schools and our society, and we can't do much other than small bursts of consequences as a teacher. I think there are much deeper issues in a bully's life and I think there needs to be empathy that needs to be taught to the bullies (if that is possible in their narcissistic mindset). I just don't know exactly about teaching empathy and them embracing empathy can really happen. Thanks for making me think today!

  3. Hi Maria,

    Bullying is a complicated issue. When we deal with people (no matter what age), we have complicated issues. We can't just MAKE people act a certain way. They do what they do without our control. We try to influence the environment to lead people down a path and like Kelly O was saying, we hope for an Apostle Paul-like transformation. We try to develop community. We try to encourage empathy. And sometimes nothing seems to work. We must relinquish the guilt that we might feel as teachers as it is not our fault. Saying that, here are some thoughts.

    I remember sitting in my principals office in December one year discussing next steps. We had an issue of bullying and had to take drastic measures to deal with it. This was after parent meetings, work in the classroom, and many other steps to quell what was happening. The next step was to move a student from the class. We moved the student exhibiting the bullying behaviour to another class and despite our concerns that this might exacerbate the issue, things got better. We made the world very small for the student and waited for evidence that we could expand it. It wasn't easy; but drastic measures were necessary.

    Were we lucky? I don't know. But I do know that safety in schools is paramount. I wish you great insight as you deal with this issue. It is not easy, but know that you are doing the hard work of anti-bullying. Your work here makes a great difference



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