On Friday, November 21st, 2008, I'll be speaking at The National Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention in San Antonio, Texas about using literacy to confront bullying and cyber-Bullying. The bullying research is sobering. “ 160,000 children miss school every day for fear of being bullied (Pollack, 1998).” Bullying occurs more often in middle school than in high school (Nansel, Overpeck, Pilla, Ruan, Simons-Morton & Scheidt, 2001). And because cyber-bullying is anonymous and often unsupervised, it is even more problematic.
Any form of bullying is detrimental to more than just the victim.
The posttraumatic stress that children experience as “either victims of or witnesses to violence includes intrusive imagery, emotional constriction or avoidance, fears of recurrence, sleep difficulties,and disinterest in significant activities…(APA, 1993)."
Alice Miller believes that one person can make a difference in the life of a child who is bullied and subjected to violence. She calls this person a helping witness which could also be described as an ally (Miller, 2001). It is my premise that the stories, themes and lessons of history and modern life can be used to examine how people have dealt with bullying and harrassment in productive ways (Henkin, 2005).
Through literature and writing, “…we can help students develop a rich array of strategies” to deal with bullying (Henkin, 2005.)" If we want students capable of making ethical decisions, we need to bring up matters of conscience over and over again (Coles, 1998). By reading, writing and thinking about bullying, we offer students “the thousands of ethical conversations” they need to develop into strong, literate adults.
The following bullying narrative comes from the research I've been doing in middle school classrooms. We asked students to write bully narratives, and then analyzed them for themes. One of themes was that teachers don't do as they say. The following statement is representative of this.
"My advice would be to you (adults) to do what you say. Your advice works sometimes but you need a new method."
Students wrote that when they followed the teachers' advice, they were often ignored, or that nothing was done about it.
During our session, we will be sharing some of this research and discussing how literacy can help students confront bullying and cyber-bullying issues and develop strategies to deal with it. The handout for the session is also posted on this blog.