Supporting Bullied Students: Top 5 Takeaways

Many may argue that bullying doesn’t occur as much as people like to say it does. As a victim of bullying, I can say that it happens all the time, but many children are afraid to speak out against it. I know that I was. Due to my own experience with bullying, I want to reach out and help students who are falling victim to this senseless interaction. It is guaranteed that this will occur within the school I will be employed by and it is my job to help these students, to be their ally

  1. Be observant in your own classroom

This seems to be one of the largest things I took away from the websites I observed and researched. It is necessary to know your classroom environment, including the students that occupy it, to understand when a student is the victim or perpetrator of bullying. Being an ally to students begins with the relationship you have with your students. Once a relationship is established, the ability to detect when something is wrong becomes much easier.

2.  Be supportive

This may see obvious, but when a student is being bullied, they often need a safe space for them to go. As an ally, you should be supportive of students in general; the same goes for students that are struggling with bullying. Students may be slow to warm up or may struggle to talk about what they are going through. An ally needs to wait through all of this and be understanding to the student’s current experiences.

3.  Provide real-life solutions

It is easy to tell a child to simply “ignore the bully and they’ll stop.” I was told this exact advise when I was being bullied, but only after both my parents and teachers were made aware of the problem at hand. As an ally, you must move beyond these general statements to focus on a true solution for the student, be it by focusing on the individual, making the problem known to the faculty, etc. An ally is an active member in a child’s life and this means they actively try to help fix the problem.

4. Stop the problem before it begins

It is key to make sure you create an environment in your classrooms that holds kids to a standard of respect and kindness. If your classroom has the potential to foster bullying, it is likely that it will happen. Your classroom must be a kind place, one that allows students to feel comfortable. Beyond the environment, make it clear what behavior is tolerated and what is not. While you can’t guarantee that bullying won’t occur, there are several premeditative steps that can be taken to stop it before it even begins.

5. Act Immediately

There should be no hesitation when acting upon bullying. Once the issue is brought to your attention, you should be acting. Colleagues should be made aware of the issue, the victim should be provided with adequate resources to help them through the issue, and the bully and his/her family needs to be addressed. There should be no hesitation. Bullying is a very pressing issue within the school systems within this country. There is no excuse for it. As an ally, you act the moment you know that it is occurring.

Being an ally to your students reaches out across many different aspects of school, family, and social lives. This is just one area I was able to expand my knowledge in. Feel free to check out the sites I used to educate yourself further.

Tips for PreventionSupport the Kids

Kids Health

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My Badge and its Relation to ME: Morning Pages; 3/28

I chose to become a teacher in order to help my students. This isn’t a career for personal gain or monetary funds. This is for children. As a former high schooler, I understand how important it was for me to have a teacher there for me in the moments when I needed it the most. This is why the ‘teacher as ally’ badge is so important to me.

I wouldn’t have made it to where I am today without the teachers that acted as my own ally when I was still in high school. They acted as my mentors and I wasn’t even aware of the impact they had on my life. Still, without them, I would have been lost, aimlessly wandering the world, wondering why the hell I was so pissed off at everything. These teachers changed me for the better by supporting me at a time in my life when I was on a very literal tipping point. I could have gone to college, pissed off, to study something that I knew would make me money, stay mad at my dad, accept my mothers warped relationships, and never understand where I fit in. Thankfully, those teachers came into my life and talked me down of the mental edge I was leaning over. I was so lost. There had never been a moment in my life more confusing as my high school career. I was lucky enough to have teachers there that genuinely cared about me as a person.

This is what I want for my own students. This is why this badge is important to me as a future educator. I want to be there for kids on those same mental ledges—to be the one that can talk them back down. If I can make one kid open their eyes, become a little more understanding and less angry—to make them feel like they do belong in this world—I will have done my job. This badge is going to help me teach me what an ally is. This is the first step to allow me to help my students when they need it the most. This badge will ground my own definition of what an ally is; it will help me be the teacher that can pull aside a student and really ask them what’s going on in their lives. I want to be that teacher that they can come to. I don’t care if the kids think of me as ‘the cool teacher’ or not.

Instead, I want the small group of kids I impact to speak to others: “Go see Ms. Simmonds.”

This is what is important to me as a future educator. This is what makes this badge so important to me. I will be the teacher that can pull kids off to the side and will have students that are eager to speak to me. Of course, I won’t be able to do this for all of them, but if there is just one kid, one just like I was, that will come to me, I’ll be happy.

Who Helped You: An Inquiry Into Others

I asked three people (Julie, Kaitlin, and Randi) the same questions I answered in my previous blog post, To a Past Ally, and realized that the names of their teachers didn’t impact me nearly as much as their reactions to my questions. When I asked them which teacher made the biggest impact in their lives, their answers were immediate, taking no longer than a few seconds to be stated. This was the same across all three people that I interviewed and I found it true in myself as well.

Beyond that, they all smiled, a wistful type of thing. I could see each of them reliving the memories in their mind and I wanted to be in their own head, witnessing what they were reliving. Much of what made teacher stand out to these individuals were simple acts of kindness that reached beyond a teachers assumed role. They all experienced teachers that were there for their students not for a supposedly ‘easy’ job. It was the teachers that went above and beyond for their students: bringing homework and soup to a sick fourth grader, taking the time to explain to a young girl that she isn’t her brother—that she is her own person, or

More interesting is the varying ages these people go back to. Julie remembers her fourth grade teacher while Randi and Kaitlin were impacted by their high school teachers more.

Regardless of when, each of them were impacted by the personal interest given to them by these teachers. This is what stood out the most to me.

Through these short interviews, I learned that being a teacher that makes a lasting impression on a student comes from a personal connection. An ally is someone who went out of their way to help their students, depending on their personal needs. These teachers were able to tell these former students exactly what they needed to hear at the time and this is what made such a lasting impact for them. This has helped me to narrow my definition of what an ally is further.

It is my goal to live up to teachers like the ones described by these individuals and the one from my own personal experiences. Hopefully one day, I will have a student remembering a moment with me, a wistful smile on their faces. That is all that I can dream of for myself as a future teacher.

To a Past Ally

Mr. Ponicsan,

I’ve been asked, who was a teacher that made a positive impact on your life? While most people have to think for a moment or two, there isn’t a hesitation anymore. It used to be a singular answer to this question—Ms. Hall. But now, as I have thought more on this question and its connection to the project I am working on, I remember someone else; I remember you. I think that I neglected to think of you as an ally for so long because you became involved in my life during my last year in high school. I was emotionally checked out, but as I think back on it now, you were one of the kindest teachers I have ever had the pleasure of meeting in my life.

You were a school favorite for the obvious reason—kids liked your humor and thought you were the cool kid. What most kids didn’t come to realize is there was so much more to who you were and what you were there to give to each one of your students if they needed it. I was one of those kids. This is why I thought of you when asked this question; you were there for me, an angry, sad, hurting high school senior that felt no one was there for me—that no one understood. I was wrong.

The reason you left such a lasting impression was because of your ability to connect with me at a personal level. We all know how easy it is for teenagers to scoff and brush adults off because ‘they couldn’t possibly understand.’ I couldn’t use that argument against you; you had been where I was, in an even worse situation. You understood how I could be so mad at my dad or at the world in general. You understood why I was always defensive. You could see beyond all of that and see that I was just a hurt, sad little girl. Thank you for listening to me and remaining the voice of a sane and removed adult. You made me listen. You made me look out and understand I wasn’t always going to be stuck in that school. I may not have realized it at the time, but you did cause a change in me.

I’ve already written about this in a previous blog post of mine, but I’ll talk about it again. There was a day, mid-April that we talked. I came into your class, fighting back tears, explaining that I was going to miss class for personal reasons. I can’t remember if I ever told you exactly what happened, but I was moving out of my dad’s house after we had one of the worst fights in our history. It was soon after that day, you sat me down on the benches under the main stairwell of the school and talked to me—truly talked. There was no humor in your voice, only concern. We talked about what happened between my dad and you told me about your own father. I realized how similar we were in that moment, regardless of how many years separated us. I hadn’t thought of the possibility of an adult that understood where I was coming from until that conversation we had. I told you about all of the writing I had done and I remember you told me to burn it.

It’s not surprising that I followed your advise.

I could go on for pages, for thousands of words, trying to explain what an impact you made on my life, trying to explain how much you changed me and saved me from myself, but what I have written here is enough. Know how much I  appreciated you then and now. I aspire to be a teacher like you—to have the outreach on one of my students like you did to me.

You truly saved me and I owe you the world for that.

Thank you,

Alex

Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby: A Deeper Look Into Allies Through Podcasts 

After my initial posting about what it means to be an ally, I dug deeper into teachers who have shared their stories and experiences in being allies. Most interestingly, these teachers aren’t the traditional models that people would think of. More importantly, they don’t teach traditional subjects. They teach young kids about puberty and sex.
Ah yes, the dreaded subject. Sex. What a terrible word to the ears of every student and of every parent. It is difficult to talk about and often times, much of the pressure of sex and puberty education is placed upon the teachers.

Through these podcasts, it’s shown that much of the sex education given to parents was through a book or from friends (I can confirm both of these happened to me as well; the infamous “The Care and Keeping of You” American girl doll has scarred me). I understand now why so many kids have such incorrect ideas surrounding puberty and sex and how vast the role of “teacher as an ally” can be.

As I mentioned in my first post, an ally is meant to educate and support. These podcasts opened my eyes to how important conversation is in being an ally. The idea of understanding what a child needs to hear rather than what an adult would do/say really stuck with me. Being an ally to students and youth is about starting a conversation. It is about being honest with your students while also delivering the information in an age appropriate way.

I also found it interesting how differently boys and girls react to these sex education classes; this can be applied to any situation in which a student may come to me, needing an ally. Every child is different, regardless of their gender and I need to be aware of this if I plan on being a good ally to my students.
Regardless of the subject, kids will take something away from an interaction with any teacher acting as an ally. One such example is a girl named Eileen who became an active member with Planned Parenthood after attending one of these sex education classes at age 10. She no longer covered her ears at the mention of sex; she didn’t feel awkward about her body anymore; she became sex positive.

This can happen through any interaction with my students as an ally.

These podcasts have opened my eyes to just one scope of topics that a teacher as an ally can begin to tackle. I can already feel my idea of what being an ally means broadening and focusing.

So this is what understanding feels like!

 

Check out the podcasts here:

Adolescent Boys and Puberty

The Puberty Lady

Being An Ally: What Does it Mean to me?

I’m beginning this next badge, attempting to focus my energy in a different direction. I’m putting on a new hat, per say; long gone is the “writing cap” I wore for the first half of the semester and in its place in a new one. It reads “ALLY” across it, in big, bold letters. As a future educator, my role is much  larger than standing in front of my class, lecturing over the American classics or how to analysis Shakespeare’s work properly. I have to remember that all of my students have lives of their own and, more importantly, problems that may leave them feeling uncomfortable or floundering.

This leaves me with an important question to begin my project: what is an ally?

The questions seems broad, so I’ll narrow it down. What is a teacher as an ally?

I can break this question down in several ways. A teacher is an educator (obvious, I know) one that extends beyond the subject they teach. They form meaningful bonds with their students and can often act as a person of great trust and understanding. This bleeds into my definition of an ally.

An ally is someone there to support, understand, and educate beyond everything else. While there are restrictions amongst teacher-student interactions within the schooling system, this doesn’t leave teachers powerless. In fact, teachers have more power than many within their job. Teachers can act as the voice of a classroom, grade, or entire school. When a student is not taken seriously for being too young or for beingunprofessional, a teacher can step forward and use their status and title to help the smaller voices be heard. An ally will help those people could brush aside and stand next to them, powerful and strong.

An ally is there for the difficult times in life as well. As a teacher, I plan on making myself as available for my students as possible. I mentioned early that students have lives outside of the classroom; with that comes very real problems. While I cannot expect everyone of my students to come to me and pour out their heart and souls to me, I will expect that they know they can. This is what makes a good ally. This is what I found in the teachers I made the most connections with.

I want to be the teacher who pulls aside kids to ask them how their day is going. I want to be the teacher that they don’t respond with the bland “good” or “fine” because they know I want to know how they are honestly feeling. I want to be there to offer any information I am able to when they ask me for advice on a given problem. I have experienced high school once. Why not be there to help students get through it themselves?

When I was in high school, there was a teacher, whom I will call Mr. P. He was easily the school’s favorite and I connected with him deeply. On one of my poorer days, as there were many of those during high school, I was asking him how I was meant to get through it all. In response, he held up a hand and gave me a high five. I was confused and annoyed, but he followed up with a brief story:

“Do you know why I give kids high fives in the hall? Well, you never know what kind of a day someone could be having and if my one gesture can change it for the better, why wouldn’t I?”

This made the entire world of difference to me.

That is was it means to be an ally.

The Big Wait; Morning Pages: 3/23

I’ve found myself in a school that is made up of 30,000+ people. This coming from a girl would went to the smallest high school in Jefferson County and whose graduating class had no more than 300 hundred kids. This is larger than many small schools, of course, but many of my friends from elementary and middle school found their ways to schools well over 3,000 kids. I came here knowing I was going to blend in, that I was going to be just a blur in the mass of people her, and I wanted that. I didn’t want anyone to know me, or to have tabs on my current or past struggles as a human.

Still, I have these feelings that I made the wrong choice. In high school, it was easy to meet people, because you were always seeing the same faces over and over again. I knew everyone in my class by a first name basis. It didn’t mean we were close, but at least we knew one another. Here, I rarely see the same people two days in a row. In fact, I don’t. And that makes meeting people a lot harder than I thought it would be. My friends from high school all made their way to small schools, so they don’t understand what I mean when I say, “It’s really hard to meet people on campus.”

Up rise the cries of, “JOIN A CLUB, ALEX!”

I have tried. There are clubs out there that I am interested in, but my schedule hasn’t allowed for my participation in them. Believe me, next year I’m going to fight tooth and nail to join those clubs. Maybe then I’ll make more friends.

The thing is, I was never a kid with millions of friends, not even in high school. I had three or four close friends and that’s how I got through my life. I have the same number of people that I am close to up here, but I don’t see them nearly as frequently as I did with my high school friends. I’m lucky if we are able to hang out once a week much of the time. Yes, I talk to kids in my classes as well. I’m not a socially awkward potato, for the most part anyways. It’s not the same though. We don’t hang out outside of class. I should try more, I’m sure, but I can’t help but wonder if that’s the way to fix my problems.

I wonder constantly if I made the right decision coming to Colorado State University. I’m in love with the town itself and the campus, but I can tell you the social aspect of being at a school this size is really difficult. At first I new I didn’t want people to know who I was. Believe me, that is what I received. Now, I’m not sure if that’s what I really want anymore. I have yet to meet someone I connect as deeply with as I did with my high school friends. I still communicate with most of them, which stands in as an example of how close we were; an example of how much they mean to me.

I want that same feeling in my current school. I want that companionship.

Let’s hope that I’ll find it.

Finalizing my Project

I HAVE MADE IT! I want to climb the tallest mountain in the world and scream of my successes right now. Yes, I am over exaggerating, but I don’t care. I have never felt so relieved or accomplished. Now that this project is done, I have so much more energy to focus on other, less stressful things. Of the most relaxing things to focus on, I have the glory that is spring break. Can we just appreciate how this break could not come at a better time? There is a reason why I prefer second semester to first and it is simple—the break comes at a much better time compared to Winter Break or Thanksgiving break. Never have I needed a break more. It’s not all because of this project either (surprising right?). With how much I have complained on this blog, I am sure that comes as a shock to most, specifically the members of the infamous s^3.

Speaking of, I have appreciated their input and overall attitude so much through this process. They made class so enjoyable, always making my day better when I didn’t think it could improve. Especially on my birthday. I didn’t say it then, but I had woken up so upset that day and ya’ll just made it better. Really everyone in that class is so amazing and always makes me laugh, which is something that means the world to me. All of the positivity in that room was so beneficial to my ability to actually complete this project. While my group members could have read my work and criticized the crap out of it (thank you for not doing that, though), they instead showed me what was good about the work I was putting forward, while also adding what could be improved on. I’ve never had feedback as helpful as theirs on an academic project I have ever worked on. I’m so thankful that they took my work seriously and moved beyond unhelpful comments like: ‘good work’ or ‘nice’. If they liked something, they explained what it added to the piece and their reading of it. If they thought something could be added, they gave me examples or suggestions for my improvement. THANK YOU GUYS SO MUCH.

Also, I’d like to apologize for all of the negativity that I put forward. I hope that it didn’t effect s^3 and the class in a poor way. I know we were all frustrated through much of this project, but I would never want my complaints and frustrations to rub off on someone that was feeling good about the work they were producing. Even in my negativity ya’ll were so supportive of me, specifically Cole and Lauren. Every comment ya’ll left on anything (my blog, my work, or even the daily log, #lobserworthy) was so helpful to my process. I really appreciate the support you were able to give me. Nothing is worse than someone trying to minimize your negative feelings; the phrase, “Just be more positive,” is easily the worst thing that I can read/hear. Thank you for never making me feel like my emotions weren’t justified.

I will admit that I am sick of writing about this project, specifically now that I am done with my memoir. I don’t feel like reflecting on it here, as I already have done this in my reflective letter, so I apologize if this blog post has very little to do with my project. I’m really trying to focus on the positivity and good vibes in this post; I feel like that is something my blog has been greatly lacking as of recently and I am seeking to change that. It’s a lot easier to do that now that I’m not stressing out about deadlines, I will admit. Stress doesn’t make me into a ray of sunshine, that much is certain. So in the spirit of ‘TMSG’ time, allow me to tell you something good, or rather a great number of good somethings.

  1. We are all done with this project now, and that is something that should make all of us want to dance around like its the last day on Earth. Reveal in the positive vibes of this moment.
  2. Now that I am on break, I’m going to have the time to read books for pleasure rather than school.
  3. To go along with reading for pleasure, I am also going to try and write for pleasure as well. I have been greatly neglecting this aspect of my life and don’t want to do this any longer.
  4. At the exact moment I am writing this, my dog is sitting in my lap. I haven’t seen him in nearly two months so this is one of the biggest highlights of my month. Dogs are life.
  5. I’m feeling happy, and that is the most important part of all of this

 

So everyone, I am so happy to say that we have made it to this moment, and boy do we all deserve it. We have all worked so hard, and while this project is entirely individual, I can’t help but feel that there is a collective reward for our class as a whole. I wish I would have been able to see everyone’s project. I would have loved to hear Jalie’s radio cast (I’m sure that’s not the official name, but you get what I mean) or read Charlie’s final screenplay. Everyone put so much effort into their work and I feel like I should have read it all, just to show my support to all of my classmates. The support of my group members, the class, and Aaron in particular, is what got me through my own project. I wish I could extend that to everyone else. Alas, I am a single person, and I think I would explode if I had to try and focus anymore on school. I have officially reached my limit for this half of the semester.

So congratulations, to all of us. We have made it through!

Still Working…

God. I cannot express how ready I am to get this memoir over and done with. I’m not going to lie, I am SO DONE with this entire project. I can’t tell if it’s the stress of everything being due within the next five days (since apparently it is a great idea to make everything due, in all classes, the Thursday/Friday before Spring Break starts) or if it’s just because I don’t know what I am trying to say anymore. For how many pages can I go on about what it was like being ten, seventeen, or twenty, learning about my own touchstone beliefs, and how it applies to me now? If you want an actual answer, it’s six. Six pages so far. I have blabbered on, trying to encompass all of the important details of each period of time in my life, so my reader understands where I am coming from. What’s even better? I don’t even know if they’ll agree with me. Yeah, they could sit there and read my entire memoir, sit back, and spit on it if they want. No one has to listen to what I have to say; perhaps that is why this project has frustrated me beyond anything I thought to be possible.

Essentially, all I can picture are my own readers, holding my paper in their hand, sighing after reading it all. I don’t want my project to be boring, or frustrating, but these guidelines that  have been placed on it have left me severely restricted in what I feel is possible for me to do in this project. Believe me, if I didn’t have to focus on my own touchstone beliefs surrounding education and it’s purposes, there would be no problem for me to progress in this project.

I’m sure as you can obviously assume, that is not the case. If it were, there would be none of my frustrated ranting to aid in my attempt to blog a thousand words a week, to finish my actual memoir, make my poster presentation, and everything else that is going on in my life right now.

 

You may be thinking that I must be the most negative person on the entire planet, and in this moment, I wouldn’t be one to disagree with you. I’m feeling super negative right now—specifically about what this project is expecting of me. Can you blame me? Stress is part of the deal when becoming a college student, I know, but it can only be so helpful. I am one that works well with deadlines, but what I am not good with is when the deadlines become so massive that I feel I may drown in the stresses of everyday.

Okay. Now that I have officially ranted for near five-hundred words, perhaps I should move toward the positives and look at what I have competed in these last six weeks. I have been able to complete all the levels and requirements of this “teacher as writer” badge. That’s really satisfying to think about, especially when I look back to my first day of class when I looked at everything I was meant to do. I can tell you with certainty that I never thought that it was going to happen. All that is left to do now, is to finish my memoir, polish it into an acceptable final draft, and make my ‘how to book’. Really the worst part of this is finishing up my memoir. It takes me so much to sit down and work on the specific voice I am trying to encapsulate at that point in my memoir.

Of the aspects I have finished, I am happy with them. I know that I need to work with what I have and improve it, but I am satisfied with the scenes I have created. I feel that scenes are the most important part of memoirs, to show rather than tell. The ones I have created do this well, in my opinion, but I am still struggling to put my college experiences into a scene that shows rather than tells as it occurs over two years rather than a more pinpointed moment like my other two touchstone moments have. That, and my college experiences aren’t necessarily a touchstone moment of mine. They have given me an amazing amount of insight to what I think a classroom should look like as well as tools to take into my future classroom, but they aren’t necessarily experiences that I look back on whenever I think of writing, reading, etc. Yes, they have taught me valuable lessons that encompass education and it’s purposes. Does that mean they have stuck out in my mind more than my previous two touchstone moments? No. They really can’t compare in the same way. I will use them more in how I teach rather than why I teach.

That’s all the difference in the world to me. Perhaps that sentence will make its way into my memoir after all, and if it does, I can say that this rant has been inherently successful, which is what generally happens to me. Much of my progress comes from whining about my frustrations and struggles. I swear I become more and more of an angsty teenager every single day. Hey, if it works for me, I suppose I shouldn’t be ashamed of it.  Any progress is progress, right?

 

I’m going to make myself a promise now: that I am going to make it through this damn project (that much is fairly obvious). After that, however, I am going to wallow in the satisfaction of it being done and within my own angst. Hopefully, I will have cookies and milk, a night night of movies, and I will look forward to typing again. This memoir is slowly killing me, I’m sure.

Alright, enough of this blog post. I’ve managed to ramble on long enough for anyone to bear. Maybe my cute picture and nostalgic gif will be enough of an apology to anyone that managed to read this whole thing.