Let’s Talk Bullying: Diversity, Acceptance, and Dialogue

Let's Talk Bullying: Diversity, Acceptance, and Dialogue 1Bullying: today’s figures range from 20-30% of 6th -12th grade students experiencing it daily at school. Bullying incidents harm the victim, the person bullying, and bystanders; can indicate abuse in the home; and result in detrimental long-term effects, including mental health issues, decreased academic performance, highly risky behaviors, crime, and violence.

Since 2006, October has been deemed Anti-Bullying Awareness Month. With this designation, the month is dedicated to addressing every dimension of the issue, along with giving teachers, parents, and administrators the tools to provide the safe and healthy environment to which their students are entitled. The following are national sites with resources relating to anti-bullying:

• PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center
• Olweus Bullying Prevention Program
• Ambassadors 4 Kids

This blog is a collaboration between abcteach and Early Childhood News and Resources, and is the first in a three-part series. The following examples are by no means exhaustive, but are here to provide substance and peace of mind during your anti-bullying efforts. With the perspectives of a teacher, a parent, and a social worker, our aim throughout this series is to empower you with diverse-scenario examples that address bullying, ultimately in the name of preventing it.

Elementary Classrooms
The following activities were provided by retired elementary teacher and abcteach staff member, Nancy Elton. Her focus, and that of her school, was not on combatting bullying, but on laying the groundwork for healthy behavior and appreciating and accepting diversity.

Peace Circle – This was done every Monday morning with K-3rd classes. Each class would meet in the gym and form one or two large circles. The staff and/or the principal made announcements to recognize successes from the past week or for the one coming up. Parents and/or grandparents were always welcome, and would sometimes speak about a group they led or activity they participated in. (Parental involvement was heavily encouraged and practiced at our school.) At the end of the meeting, a staff member who played the piano would start the intro to “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” Everyone would then hold hands (some not so willingly) and sing the song. Afterwards, we’d quietly walk back to our rooms and begin our week. Some years we even had children sign the song.

The peace circle was a wonderful way to begin the school week by setting a positive tone. It was an opportunity to let all shine with uplifting messages and recognition of all types of success.

Where Do you Live – This activity began with each child receiving a piece of paper, while I did the activity on the overhead. Starting in the middle of the page, we would all draw a small stick figure of ourselves inside of a house. We’d then drawn a circle around it. The following circle layers were comprised of our address, then city, county, state, country, continent, planet, etc., culminating with the last circle as the universe. The essence of the lesson was to teach how, although we have different families and street names, overall, we’re very similar and a part of the same world.

Map It – Another similar exercise would be to take a county map and identify each student’s home. Find out where each person lives, where the teacher lives (which they always got a kick out of); you can even coordinate this activity with graphing skills and tallies. I would make this part of a larger unit, combining math, social studies, reading, etc., and encourage parent participation with ethnic customs, food, or family traditions. It demonstrated how unique and special we are as a country and as a school.

Along with this activity, we would also watch “The Great American Melting Pot” and read Coming to America, discussing how different each country’s experience was, and the difficulties that each had to endure.

Lunch with the Teacher – Throughout the year, a time was set aside to share lunch with my students. Two or three names were drawn at random and we would get together and eat in a quiet area, i.e. classroom, library, or conference room. Kids got to know me as more than an authority and they also got to know each other in a setting that was safe from possible critique. It eased their comfort level so they could talk with me about problems other than scholastic ones.

These books were effective because of their messages and stories, but also because the characters were similar in age to the students.

Trumpet of the Swan – The basic premise of this book was that everyone is unique and has his/her own struggles. I’d ask the students questions: what do you think it felt like for Louis not to be able to speak to his family and friends? How frustrating would it be, even after discovering his own talents and a means to relate, to still be different from his community? We read the book as a class, relating students’ own feelings to Louis and Sam’s journey.

The Story of Ruby Bridges – The main character, Ruby Bridges, was the first black child in a white elementary school. It was extremely powerful in showing the difficulties she encountered just being her, let alone being in school. The age similarity also struck home because students could envision taking those first steps into the school with her.

Pink and Say – This is a civil war book about two young boys, one black, Pink, and one white, Say, who met on the battlefield. Say is wounded and taken in by Pink’s family, who nurses him back to health. The story delves into race relations, what was happening in the country at that time, the feelings of each character, etc.

At our school, we, as teachers, did not ask how we could prevent bullying. Our objective was to develop empathy, acceptance, and the appropriate way to address feelings. We also covered topics like personal space and touching. As a whole, these helped reinforce their concept of respect for self and for others. It also offered a sense of security knowing that they could talk to us, or any adult, about what they were feeling or experiencing.


Our next blog comes from Shara Lawrence-Weiss: mom, educator, and owner of Early Childhood News and Resources. Shara shares her personal story, parenting insights, and tips on how to address/better prepare children to deal with bullying.

Posted by Lindsey Elton, abcteach Team

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