Monday, November 18, 2013

Anti-Bullying Lesson - Follow-Up #2

Sent this out today (tried calling between lessons and Sick Monkey but ended up with voicemail):
Hi [Curriculum Office Specialist]! CrunchyProgressiveMusicMama here - I left a voicemail at the curriculum office as well in between other stuff going on here (I teach private lessons out of my home AND I have a sick 3rd-grader home with me today), but I wanted to follow up in writing.

A couple of weeks ago, my younger daughter was working pretty diligently on a self-portrait, as directed by her classroom teacher. She's a pretty detail-oriented kid, so over the week they had to complete the assignment, she put a LOT of herself into this. Had I known that this would be used for the "crumpled paper" anti-bullying lesson, I never would have let her take it to school, not something that she probably invested 3-4 hours in (on top of the hour-plus it already takes her to do her homework nightly - but that's another kettle of smelly fish LOL) over the course of the week she worked on it.

So here is the aftermath:

When I asked around on Facebook as to whether any other parent friends' children had undergone anything like this, I got a couple of responses from other teachers, that they had some a similar lesson with plain paper, or paper hearts, and one said they used non-specific faces (like smiley faces) for the lesson; NONE of them would EVER have done it with a portrait, and not with that age group. Another teacher pointed out that it sends a message that a child can never heal fully if the child him/herself is the victim; I absolutely have a HUGE problem with that message. I did email the teacher and express my concerns; he was willing to discuss it, but I prefer to do things in writing so there is less chance of misquoting or forgetting key details, so I left it at expressing my unhappiness with the lesson (it sounds like one teacher of 4 at our school did NOT do the lesson with her third-grade class).

One of the teachers kindly sent me a copy of the lesson as written on the MCPS curriculum page and I was really unhappy to see the sentence "Allow as much time as needed for students to complete their portraits and grow to love them." Well, she DID grow to love her portrait, and she was completely crushed when it was destroyed in front of her. Other parents and teachers who've seen the lesson on my blog have expressed outrage, anger, indignation - to a person, NONE of them supported this lesson, especially not taught with portraits the children have worked on. Too many negative messages were sent with this lesson, NO positive lessons were learned - and there are so very many other MORE positive and MORE effective ways to address bullying's causes and effects.

The teacher who posted the lesson said she adapted a lesson from a particular website; when I went to that site to investigate further, it was only the crumpled paper lesson, NO portrait. One of the commenters under that lesson said s/he used paper money for this lesson to show that even when "crumpled," the "victim" still has value - so why use portraits that the teacher has purposely let the children grow attached to if this is the lesson that had to be chosen in the first place (which it really really wasn't)? There can be value in sheer "shock value" - after all, the person who wrote the lesson even said, "Yes they will be shocked!" But to inflict that shock purposely? Can't go along with that, sorry.

I would love it if this lesson were removed from the [school system] website; IMO it really is not suitable for third-graders when used as-is. Middle school, MAYBE, and that's a big maybe. But no other kid and no other class should have to go through having their work destroyed at the TEACHER'S direction, especially after having invested so much into it. No other child should be put into a position where s/he is ASKED - not given permission but DIRECTED! - to destroy another's work. And no other teacher should be put in the position of not being trusted by his/her students to keep student work safe.

Thanks for bearing with me; I had a lot to unload.

Updated to add the response:

Thank you for letting me know about this incident.  I want to start off by apologizing.  I am so sorry that your daughter had such a bad experience related to a concept that is supposed to empower children.
As you may know, our online curriculum has resources that we provide as a curriculum office.  In order to create an online learning community, individual teachers are also able to post resources.  The lesson you are referring to was posted by an individual teacher; it was not created or endorsed by [School District].  We have removed the link from our Instruction Center.

I am happy to discuss the issue further if you have any additional questions.  Please feel free to call me.

Thank you,
[Curriculum Office Specialist]

Ah, that's better. :-)

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Please keep it clean. Differences of opinion aren't a problem for me. Rudeness is. Thankyouverymuch. :-)