Friday, November 15, 2013

Anti-Bullying Lesson - Follow-Up

Wow - that last post about the anti-bullying lesson my third-grader's class undertook sure did get a lot of views, and lots of commentary on the Facebook side as well. I have yet to hear from one person who didn't find the lesson "inappropriate" at best and "barbaric" at worst; most expressed anger and outrage, a few suggested phone calls to the principal/teacher. I did email the teacher but got limited joy on that front; I got some more details - which is good, because even with an impeccably honest but still-young child, parents are still going to hear more of that child's perspective of the experience than they are likely to hear an objective account, so I wanted to give the teacher the benefit of the doubt. He instead basically confirmed what Monkey had told me, with a few more details I could follow up on.

Another teacher who read my account of the incident and was less than impressed by the lesson kindly located it on the curriculum page and shared with me a cut-and-pasted copy of the anti-bullying lesson described here. To my surprise (and sadness), it is indeed included in the third-grade curriculum (not in a higher grade, as I'd half-hoped). Step-by-step instructions follow:

Social Studies Lesson
Marking Period 2 Week 1: ¨Indicator(s): Identify teasing and bullying as harassment and their effects on the individual.
 - Differentiate between teasing and bullying.
 - Recognize examples of teasing and bullying, such as isolation, name calling and other verbal assaults, pushing, and other physical assaults.
 - Examine the effects of teasing and bullying from the perspective of the bully and the bullied.
- Academic Success Skill: Metacognition -
- Thinking Skill: Evaluation
- Give each student a face template to create a self portrait.
- Encourage students to include as many realistic details possible.
-Allow as much time as needed for students to complete their portraits and grow to love them. [emphasis mine]
- When all of the portraits are completed direct students to sit in a circle.
- Instruct students to pass their portraits to the person on the left. Signal students when to pass portraits. Repeat 4-5 times. As students pass portraits they will probably make positive comments.
- After the 4th or 5th time instruct students to crumble up the portrait they are holding but be careful not to rip it. Yes they will be shocked! [emphasis mine; exclamation point is original to the lesson and is not mine.]
- After crumpling the portraits instruct students to return the crumbled portrait to the original creator.
- Now instruct students to open their portrait and try to smooth the wrinkles out.
- Connect this simulation to the concept of bullying and being careful with your words.
- This is similar to what happens when we say or do mean things (bully others). Even though we apologize and try to restore our portraits the wrinkles (scars) will always remain.
- Discuss/chart how teasing and bullying effects personal well-being, and ways to reduce incidences of teasing and bullying?
Read aloud a book such as, The Juice Box Bully: Empowering Kids to Stand Up for Others by Bob Sornson and Maria Dismondy or Simon's Hook: A Story About Teases and Putdowns by Karen Gedig Burnett. [Corrected for punctuation and capitalization, and added links to the book titles.]

Lesson adapted from

Display portraits in the class room as a reminder.
Name __________________________
Think about the activity you just completed. Explain how teasing effects personal well-being. Be sure to include details from the Crumple Portrait Activity _______________________________________________
Explain ways you can reduce incidences of teasing and bullying. __________________________________


After reading this, I went to the Bullyinglte website and searched for the Crumpled Paper lesson and found it here. Nowhere on the lesson or even in the comments does it suggest using portraits. There was a suggestion in the comments section to use a red paper heart instead of a plain sheet of paper for more impact (I find that a lot less distasteful than the use of portraits) and another suggestion to use a dollar bill (I kind of like that one, as the money still has its value intact even when crumpled). I left a comment there myself imploring people to NOT ever use portraits so any other teacher looking for ideas can see in advance the negative impact it can have.

Next step will be a phone call to the school system's Curriculum office. I do understand that anti-bullying is now part of the curriculum, and I acknowledge that it's probably not a bad idea, given the prevalence of bullying in so many schools even in Kindergarten; I've seen it as a substitute teacher, and Monkey experienced it in Kindergarten and 1st grade from the same girl (who has thankfully not been in the same class as her since). This lesson, though, crosses a line and crosses it big-time in my opinion. I am hoping that if I'm the first parent to raise a fuss about this lesson, it will be because no other schools have used it yet - and I want to make sure that nobody else's child goes through what my child (and her classmates) did. There are so very many other ways to address bullying that don't involve personally having children destroy others' work or having their own work defaced in front of them - at the teacher's direction, no less! - that can make the point in appropriate ways.

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