By Stephanie Filio
With the unending pressures of social media and confusing behavioral standards for today’s children, it has become clear that students need a little extra help and guidance in their hallways. In response, most schools and school systems celebrate National Bullying Prevention Month in October. At my previous school, we made an effort every year to come up with a comprehensive four-week program for the entire school. This included activities, schoolwide counseling lessons, and inspirational and informative announcements. Bullying Prevention Month is one of the most fun times to plan each year, because it is all about positivity and having a blast together!
In the past, many bullying prevention campaigns focused on the negative effects of bullying and peer aggression. It felt as though kids were being scolded for having peers who bully and for having the potential to create harm. Luckily, we have since turned a corner and refocused efforts on the positive side of decreasing bullying. The fact that students are powerful, essential components of their schools has become the central message. The old “us against them” (students who don’t bully vs. those who do) mentality is being replaced with hope in the all-powerful “we.”
The goal of a good bullying prevention campaign is to shine a spotlight on how we should treat one another, how we can celebrate friendship and support, and how students can make connections. The best way to proactively combat bullying in schools is to first create a social norm of kindness and respect. To build an entire month around a schoolwide bullying prevention program, consider the following tips.
Determine your focus.
The idea of bullying prevention is broad and encompassing. By narrowing down a focus, you are more likely to deliver a clear message to students that they can apply in their daily lives. Maybe you want to have students think about their ability to do positive deeds for others, feel good about themselves and others, or feel safe to lay down their protective shields.
Make your outline.
Sending a message from different angles better ensures that you will reach all students in some way. Create a plan for spreading your message in the classroom (if you are able to), daily announcements, hallways, lunchroom, and so on. Think about all the things a student comes in contact with throughout the school week, and then figure out how you can infiltrate each avenue. Do you have bulletin boards in your hallways? Do you have televised announcements or videos? Is there a study period when teachers could deliver a mini-lesson? Can you send messages out through Remind.com or another mass-text service?
Once you have your list, determine how you will access each avenue. This is where your relationships with sponsors, librarians, student activities coordinators, and so on really come in handy.
Next, brainstorm activities and schedule them throughout the month. You can do this before meeting with others involved in the program, or you can hold an initial meeting to generate ideas.
Mobilize your squad.
Put together a bullying prevention committee to get a full view of what your school needs based on what teachers are seeing in classrooms, what administrators are processing in their offices, and what counselors are seeing in the hallways. Set a time for your first meeting and send the invitation to grade-level teachers, administrators, and counselors to ensure the word gets out to all corners of the school. Come with your outline for the month and ideas for events. Ask the committee to spread the word in their department meetings, and take notes on who will complete each task.
Create your calendar.
Create an easy-to-follow calendar to help you carry out your plans. The calendar will also be a great resource to share with administrators and teachers to make sure everyone is on the same page and supporting the initiative. For a monthlong campaign, I usually use a one-page full-month calendar with space for specific details and short descriptions.
To organize my thoughts, I like to sort by communication medium. For example, you might outline what you will do on announcements and in the hallways and lunchroom. Click here to download this easy-to-follow calendar.
Counselors reinforce the message.
School counselors can help create a comprehensive message by conducting classroom lessons. Since the team is smaller, it is easier to ensure that the lessons stay true to the overall focus. These lessons may fill an entire bell or block or be as short as 15 minutes depending on how much time your administrator lets you pull from instruction.
Here are some fun sample ideas to get your wheels turning:
- The Giving Tree. Have students listen to the story The Giving Tree and discuss showing thankfulness. Have students write what they are thankful for about their school on a leaf. Post the leaves around a paper trunk in a busy hallway and create a thankfulness showpiece.
- Bullying Prevention PSA. Have students look up PSA videos about bullying and kindness. Challenge them to get into groups and create their own PSA videos for a schoolwide competition. All efforts can be recognized, and you can have a grand prize for the top video students vote on.
- Inspirational Videos. Show students inspirational videos about inclusion and respect on a global level. Have discussions in pairs and as a whole class about what large groups, such as countries and corporations, can do to increase inclusion and respect in the world. What about smaller entities like communities and schools? What about classrooms? What about individuals?
- PACER’s Project Connect Lesson. PACER is a great resource for National Bullying Prevention Month. This page has several classroom activities. In the Project Connect activity, students write on a strip of paper a way in which they have helped others. Link the strips together and discuss how these actions can create a chain reaction of positivity and help a school become a stronger whole. Display the chain.
The heart of the bullying prevention message is inclusion and community. If people are conscious of their actions and caring about how they influence others’ feelings, the community is stronger and bullying falls naturally to the wayside. A comprehensive bullying prevention program involves the entire school and shows students how fun a positive environment can be. Students do not need to be made smaller by focusing on their negative potential, but rather empowered to better understand their capacity for valuable and lasting change.
For more resources for Bullying Prevention Month, check out Free Spirit’s Bullying Prevention & Conflict Resolution section online.
Stephanie Filio is a middle school counselor in Virginia Beach. She received her undergraduate degree in interdisciplinary studies from the University of Virginia and her M.Ed. in counseling from Old Dominion University. In a discussion with one of her UVA professors about her desire to stay in school forever, her mentor wisely responded, “If you want to be a lifelong learner, go into education,” and so she found her place. Prior to her six years as a school counselor, Stephanie worked in private education, specializing in standardized tests, test preparation, and future planning. She writes about her career and hobbies at her blog, Weekend Therapy, and can be found on Twitter @steffschoolcoun. Stephanie also enjoys spending time with her books, crafts, and family.
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