Anyone who’s worked in a school — from elementary to high school — has seen the same thing. Popular kids sit together at “their table;” sports stars sit together at “their table.” Occasionally, but not nearly enough, we see a student being especially kind to a new kid.
My first job in a school was as a lunch lady, and more times than I would have liked, I saw a child who sat alone. I saw a child mock another child. I saw a child being tripped or pushed. I always intervened, but I never had any formal training on what to do when I saw bullying. I did my best, but today educators don’t have to guess. We know what works in preventing bullying.
First, we now know that ignoring bullying doesn’t help. We know that kids need to know that a caring adult will take action. And we know that that caring adult might be a teacher or a principal or any one of the army of education support professionals (ESPs) that surround that child.
I’ve seen the importance of our ESPs who interact with students on a daily basis–often in less structured environments on the school bus or playground or just walking down the hall. Bus drivers, lunch workers, custodians and para-professionals should all receive the same professional development as teachers, librarians and administrators to know the best way to stop bullying.
There’s no better time to start than now as this month marks National Bullying Prevention Month. NEA has updated its Bully Free: It Starts with Me campaign.
Research by GLSEN shows that our most vulnerable students can name at least one supportive educator in their school. That’s important, but to change school culture, it’s not nearly enough.
Only half of students surveyed could name six supportive educators. We can start to change that today in just two steps. Here’s how:
I will stand up as an educator dedicated to creating a culture of respect and safety for ALL students. This means, not only identifying myself as a caring adult who is prepared to advocate and intervene in bullying situations, but also as a leader on school climate willing to engage other educators to ensure Bully Free schools.
Once five educators from your school sign the pledge, we will send you the tools and resources that you need to improve your school climate and make your school Bully Free!
As I think back to my days in the school cafeteria, I wish there had been more resources and training to help me deal with bullying. I am grateful, however, that today we recognize bullying as an issue that affects students and school environments. Now, we must take advantage of the resources and training available to identify, intervene, and advocate to bring an end to bullying. Let’s demonstrate that we really believe “bully free begins with us”!