By Sara Gonzalez, AmeriCorps Member '17-'18, City Year Sacramento, Oak Ridge Elementary School
Thirty percent of young people admit to bullying others. From what I have seen in the third-grade classroom I serve in, one of my students could very well be one of those young people. As a City Year in the classroom and on the playground, I see that name calling is almost always inevitable, but that could be different if we prevented students from becoming bullies. With the proper resources students can be prevented from becoming bullies instead of just trying to stop the bullying actions.
The month of January is home to “No Name Calling Week.” The week focuses on preventing bullying by prompting continuous dialogue about how bullying affects others in hopes of one day eliminating bullying. The week-long event was created to stand up for individuals regardless of their gender identity, sexual orientation or physical differences. The week is put on by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network or GLSEN. Their website is a wonderful resource for adults working with children, as it provides lesson plans with activities that address bullying and its prevention through empathy.
Preventing the formation of a bully is more efficient in the long term than just stopping bullying in the present. Resources presented to me in the past have always focused on stopping bullying, none on preventing it. Preventing bullying would create a huge difference in our students' lives and how they experience school on a day-to-day basis.
As a City Year serving in a third-grade classroom where name calling is extremely frequent, these types of resources are important for building a strong community. Inclusivity leads to productivity, and embracing our students and helping them with their issues allows for a better partnership between the student and their City Year. Good working partnerships then create a path towards self-growth for students who might be inclined to bully because of personal circumstances.
One of my third-grade students is constantly involved in name calling while in line to play four square. Unfortunately, the name calling or bullying always makes its way back into the classroom, and I am left without a clue about how to properly address the situation. At that moment, I rely on school culture and City Year values like empathy and inclusivity to guide me in my problem solving.
City Year’s value of inclusivity can only be achieved through empathy. Learning to walk in other’s shoes prompts acceptance of their differences. During morning circles in my classroom, we often share personal struggles and open the floor for others to offer possible solutions. This type of group collaboration allows students to become aware of commonalities and helps create an inclusive culture amongst the group.
Another key factor in working towards a culture that prevents bullying is collaboration. Specifically, it is the collaboration of strong teams that empowers our students to perform at their best and to be their best selves. A team that empowers students is grounded on communication between the school, its teachers, parents, and AmeriCorps Members to build unique plans that address the different issues affecting students.
Teaching students to be inclusive opens the gates for real and honest peer relationships that go beyond the classroom. These interactions will facilitate empathy amongst peers. Empathy will impede the creation of bullies, because students will have a sense of what it is like to be that other person before the bullying begins. Consistent communication amongst education providers will showcase the importance of the student and their lives, making them feel like part of the team. If this seems like a lot to do, remember that no one is alone in this! There are many resources available to people working to prevent bullying, including GLSEN website with ready-to-go lesson plans and activities. Both this resource and my work with City Year have helped me stay hopeful when confronting bullying, and continue to show me pathways to building students up while putting an end to name-calling.