Tag Archives: Problem Solving Skills

Anti-Bullying Programs In Schools: A 25 Year Teacher’s Perspective, Part 3

Anti-Bullying Programs, Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow

A Four-Part Article, By Marnie Hancock, B.Ed, Author, Teacher, Consultant

Part 3.

The BC Education Ministry’s and A 25 Year Teacher’s Strategies to E.R.A.S.E. Bullying


In Part 3 of my article about Bullying, I outline The BC Education Ministry’s and my own teaching strategies to E.R.A.S.E. Bullying.

E.R.A.S.E. Bullying (Expect Respect and A Safe Education.)

Another amazing attribute of this great school was that new programs were both discussed and valued.  In one of the last Staff Meetings I attended, low and behold, the School Counselor and the Vice Principal got up to speak about the new Ministry of Education’s Anti-bullying Program, titled E.R.A.S.E. Bullying (Expect Respect and A Safe Education.)

I was very excited, because I had already heard about this program’s pending arrival.  I was silently and simply amazed.  Here I was, at this wonderful school that was actually implementing Anti-Bullying Programs, and now I was about to learn all about the Ministry’s new additions to them also.

The School Counselor and Vice-Principal had just attended a district workshop introducing this new government program, and they shared what they had learned.  They shared the new government website, as well as a government booklet, which provided much education about what bullying was.  As their presentation came to an end, however, they also shared some fairly disappointing news.  While the government clearly had a stated mandate to Eliminate Bullying, they simply made referrals to resources, rather than providing a specific program.  In essence, the program did not provide any concrete, practical resources that you could pick up and teach with.  Sigh!  Back to disappointment again.

My Own Strategies to Eliminate Bullying: A Focus On Classroom Management

So, then I had to stop, and I had to ask myself, what strategies had I used in my own classroom, learned over 25 years, to prevent and eliminate bullying?  While Anti-Bullying Programs were never implemented at some of my earlier schools, personally and professionally, I never gave up on eliminating bullying in my classroom.

Essentially, I continued to research and implement many different Classroom Management Strategies, and I found that these strategies actually transferred very well into an effective Anti-Bullying Program.  Once these Classroom Management Strategies were implemented, bullying in my classroom was almost completely eliminated.

So now, when I opened that classroom door, even at this wonderful school, and still I heard, “Johnny called me stupid!”  “Sally laughed at my coat!”  and “Frank budged!” what over the years had I learned to do?  To begin to share this with you, I would like to describe one particular bullying incident that took place, just before my placement at this wonderful school ended.  And this answers the “No” part of the question, as to whether or not “Pink Shirt Day” completely eliminated bullying.

A Bullying Incident Described

After recess one day, a young student came over to my desk, and he pointed to a fellow classmate, saying “She’s bullying me!”  In the cloakroom, while putting their belongings away, another student had been repeatedly blowing air in his face.  I know, this sounds very innocent!  But he had asked her to stop, over several days, and she wouldn’t.  He was obviously very upset about it.  (One-time incidents do not come under the definition of bullying; but repeated incidents do.)

My teaching partner and I had been talking with the children about trying first to solve the problem themselves, by being assertive and telling the other student to stop.  This student had tried this, however, and still the other student hadn’t stopped their behavior.  So at this point, he was taking the next correct “Anti-Bullying” step.  He was telling an adult.

Bystander Intervention, and Telling an Adult

So, what did I do, as the adult and teacher, and as the potential advocate for this child?  Did I brush off his complaint, because it seemed so innocent, and because I needed to get to Music or P.E?  Or, did I take the time to help him to problem solve, to teach the other student that what she was doing was Bullying, and even to take this opportunity to model good problem solving behavior with the whole class?

Ultimately, the additional strategy for resolving this problem was up to me, the teacher and adult involved.

The answer for me was, “Yes, take an action.” For me, I believed that the consequences of not getting involved, and not teaching those social skills, were just too great.  I.E., the bullying could continue; the problem could escalate; the other children would start copying it:  and I would end up with one big “Bullying Mess.”

Problem Solving Skills & Class Meetings

So, on this day, I chose to not teach the lesson I was intending to teach, and I chose to Problem Solve openly with the students involved.  First, I declared a Class Meeting time.   –I could have chosen to problem solve with the two children in private, but that would have meant that the other children would have needed to be independently at work, and this was Kindergarten.  So, I chose to problem solve with the help of the whole class.

I reminded the children of my basic Problem Solving Rules, that only one person can speak at a time.  (Insisting on hands up in a group setting works.)  I reminded them of another communication rule, too, which was to speak in a calm, inside voice, and to use respectful words and body language.  Then we began.

I asked each child for their version of the story, and each child was listened to well.  Also, the other children were able to tell what they had seen.  Yes, it wasn’t always that comfortable.  Yes, there was sometimes denial.  Yes, there were sometimes interruptions.  Yes, there was even anger and indignation.  But I remained calm, modeling good and respectful listening skills, and we worked through it.

Finally, the young girl could see what she had been doing was wrong.  She heard, felt and saw how upset she had made her classmate.  She empathized, took responsibility for it, and then she apologized.  These are the final steps in the Problem Solving Process.

Apologies, though, shouldn’t be quick and easy, without meaning.  Another Problem Solving Rule is that you need to stop and look the person you’re apologizing to in the eye, and you need to say you’re sorry as if you mean it, with compassion and in a respectful tone of voice.

This being done, the young boy felt heard.  He felt valued and safe again, and he said, “Thank you.”  Then, we were able to get on with the lesson at hand.

Where Did I Learn These Problem Solving Skills?

So, where did I learn these Problem Solving Skills?  Well, it wasn’t just through The Second Step Program, mentioned in Part 1 of this Article, although this is a very practical and informative program.  I also learned these Problem Solving Strategies through talking with teachers, listening to principals, reading books, and attending Classroom and Behavior Management workshops.  I also learned them through attending the school of hard knocks!  It took almost half of my on-contract teaching career to learn all these skills, and to put them together into these various steps that worked well for me.

Too, I found I had to modify these strategies, depending on the class and age group I was teaching.  When I was teaching Grades 1 and 2, for example, I would have mini Class Meetings after recess and lunch, if necessary, and for a number of years I held Class Meetings on Friday afternoons.  There is quite a large body of information about how to hold Class Meetings, and reading about how to conduct them is very interesting and worthwhile.

Researching similar strategies for parents, one year I found modified versions of Class Meetings for Families, to be used around the dinner table.  I have often thought to myself, how I wish parents had the opportunities that we had as teachers, to learn about these Classroom Management and Behavior Management Strategies.  I highly recommend that parents take all of these bolded beginning terms and strategies, and do some deeper research on them.  This article really is just an introduction to Anti-Bullying Strategies.

Preventing Bullying By Having a Set of Rules

One of my very key Classroom Management and Anti-Bullying strategies is that of prevention.  In all of my research and experience around having a safe and successful classroom, prevention is key.  Essentially prevention is achieved by having a strong set of classroom rules, which are consistently and fairly maintained.

The best book I ever read about establishing effective rules in the classroom was the book titled Discipline With Dignity, by Richard Curwin and Allen Mendler.  This very helpful book was referred to me by a fellow teacher in my earlier teaching years, and the book talks about how to set up and maintain your own set of classroom rules.

I found it very interesting that the process moves from a negative to a positive, when establishing these classroom rules; just like both the List and the successful Anti-Bullying Strategies mentioned in Part 2 of this Article.

Specifically in September, you begin by asking the children themselves what the rules are at school, and you write them down for them.  They will tell you, “No throwing!”  “No teasing!”  “No running!”  They love it!  With the children having told you all these rules themselves, they actually take much more ownership and responsibility for them!

Next, you begin to “sort and classify” these rules, under their more positive categories, changing them to positive, more global statements.  Ultimately you are aiming for the more positive classroom rules below.

A:  Be Kind.  (Use only positive, respectful words, tone of voice and body language, even when problem solving, etc..)

B:   Be Safe.  (No hitting, pushing, running, spreading germs, keep your hands to yourself, etc.)

C:   Learn.  (One person speaks at a time, listen, do your best, put your hand up, don’t interrupt, etc.)

Consequences Also Prevent Bullying

I have also learned that no set of rules will work without a clearly defined set of consequences.  There is much material written about Logical Consequences.  For myself, though, the most logical consequence in a classroom is a “Time Out” from the groupIn other words, if you cannot follow the classroom rules, then you cannot be a part of that group; albeit for a short period of time.

Consequences, however, are never the first line of defense.  Teaching the rules, and then reminders, warnings and then consequences are the best sequence of events.  Using the short form strategy of, “That’s once for not.., that’s twice, that’s three times, you’re out!” is also very valuable.

Consequences, too, should escalate, depending on the severity and frequency of the behavior.  In the Discipline with Dignity Program, the authors discuss how every teacher should choose one rule that was very important to them, and to make it very clear to their students that they have absolute authority over that rule, to immediately administer consequences if necessary.

The rule that I chose to do this with was the safety rule.  I warned my students that any unsafe behavior would be subject to immediate “time out” consequences, possibly including the more severe consequences of a call home, temporary removal from the classroom, (a visit to the Principal’s Office or Behavior Resource Room, if there was one), or temporary removal from recess, lunch, or even the school itself.  In very severe discipline cases, I even talked about how when you are grown up, hurting others can lead to intervention by the police and the court system.  This, of course, was rarely used, but it carried a lot of weight.

Regarding consequences for Bullying, I have actually heard of schools in the US where parents are fined if their children bully.  Cyber Bullying incidences in Florida, like those leading up to Canadian suicides of Amanda Todd and Rehtaeh Parsons, can result in teens being charged for distributing pornography.  In a very recent incidence of a teen suicide in Florida, caused by two teenagers who had bullied the female student who eventually killed herself, the teens were arrested on charges of felony stalking and harassment.  While these consequences may seem harsh, by the time children reach their teens, children need to know right from wrong, and they need to know that any type of Bullying is inappropriate.

Personally I have found that consequences in our both BC school system and Federally are not yet really clearly defined.  I believe there needs to be much more consistent attention given to this area in our school system and in our society today.  Fortunately, Federally in Canada, distributing private photos without permission is now being considered a crime. To their credit, also, the BC Ministry of Education has recently implemented a Code of Conduct in schools, informing parents that if their children’s behavior is not acceptable, there will be consequences.  Again, while these consequences are not yet clearly defined, parents are at least forewarned, and teachers and administrators are more “backed up” if they need to apply any of the consequences described above.

“The Truth” and Consequences

–Just a quick side note about “The Truth.”  Often I would reduce the severity of consequences, and even remove them, if a child would tell the truth rather than lie.  Children need to learn that it is safe to tell the truth, even if they have made a mistake.  Hiding and lying about Bullying is very common, and so lying also needs to be eliminated if you want to build a safe, Anti-Bulling atmosphere.

Preventing Bullying By Rewarding Good Behavior

Believe it or not, however, with enough preventative strategies in place, I found that I rarely needed to administer any more consequences than a short time out.  Eventually, even this was rare.

On a more positive note, too, another preventative strategy that I have found to be very effective is to reward the good behaviors that I desired.  I would often give out Good Behavior Awards, at least two or three a day, and I would frequently praise the positive behaviors that I observed in my classroom.  Practically speaking, at the end of my teaching day, I would sit at my desk, take out the good behavior certificates that I’d placed at the top of my daybook, and then I would reflect back on the day, remembering who had done a particularly kind or exemplary act.  I would then fill out the two or three certificates.  I even kept a class list attached to these certificates, to make sure that I eventually included everyone in the class.  This strategy is an example of Positive Reinforcement, and this is a very powerful teaching strategy.

In this way, I not only reinforced the behaviors I wanted, but at the same time I was building modeling, mentorship and even leadership amongst my students.  Suddenly, children would be going out of their way to behave positively towards each other, creating exactly the opposite climate from a bullying one.  Essentially, I would begin to experience a more calm, inclusive and nurturing classroom, and one in which much more learning could take place.

Part 4: Future Anti-Bullying Strategies: Peer Mediation

Effectively, modeling, mentorship and building leadership are all very important strategies to any Anti-Bullying Program.  Fortunately, these strategies are also very important to Peer Mediation, the Anti-Bullying Strategy recently recommended by our Federal Government.  Fortunately, too, as a Teacher On Call, I had the delightful experience of observing how Peer Mediation works, and first hand.  I will be sharing this wonderful experience with you in the last installment of my Anti-Bullying Article, Anti-Bullying Strategies of the Future.  Stay tuned!  The concluding Part 4 of this article will arrive in two weeks’ time.

Anti-Bullying Programs In Schools: A 25 Year Teacher’s Perspective, Part 1.

A Four-Part Article About Solutions To Bullying,

By Marnie Hancock, B.Ed, Author, Teacher, Consultant

A Personal Note From The Author:

As many of you know, I recently returned to teaching part-time in the Public Education System.  What you may not know, however, is that within this system I have had a long history with Anti-Bullying Programs.  In a way, my interest in The List, aka Reality Dynamics, is due in part to this interest.  Essentially, the List is all about personal empowerment and safety, which is the direct opposite of what people experience in Bullying scenarios.  My recent return to teaching was so inspiring, largely because of the great progress in Anti-Bullying Programs that I experienced at the stellar school where I was teaching.  So often successes in the Public Education System go uncelebrated, and so my goal is to do just that.  Too, my goal is also to assist with the problems of cyber bullying and the resultant teen suicides.  Only very briefly do I touch on The List Program, although I believe that The List process would be a valuable addition to any Anti-Bullying Program.  Read on, and I hope you enjoy this unique and experienced window into the evolution of Anti-Bullying Programs in the Public Education System today.

Because of the extensive content and depth of this subject, I have divided this article into four parts.  I hope you enjoy reading this article, as I share further aspects of this topic with you over the next several months.

Part 1.  Anti-Bullying Programs Today & Yesterday: Emotional & Cyber Bullying & Teen Suicide

Finding new solutions to cyber bullying and resulting increased teen suicides was Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s appeal on Global News in May of 2013.  He asked that all Canadians need work together to find solutions to this new and challenging situation.  As a 25 year Public Education Teacher, I would like to respond to Stephen Harper’s call, and I would like to share the many successful Anti-Bullying Strategies that I have learned over my 25 year teaching career.  Essentially, I have closely researched and utilized Anti-Bullying Programs since their inception, almost 25 years ago.

At the risk of sounding like a “know it all,” receiving teachers were often impressed at how well my students learned, often being able to read, write and complete Math activities well beyond their grade level.  My students were happy, too, having fun at school.  Essentially, I found that the benefits of addressing Bullying in my classroom were immense.  When children felt safe, their potential for learning was infinite.

From my experience, however, not everyone in the Public Education System has made Anti-Bullying a priority.  While there have been some good reasons for this, with the added and exponential influence of technology, and the resulting teen suicides, I believe we cannot wait any longer.  All of us need to learn about and address Bullying now, for the benefit of our children and society.

To this end, and from first-hand experience, I will share with you every aspect of Anti-Bullying Programs that I have learned, from 25 years ago up until today.

In particular, this spring, I had the honor and privilege of teaching with a very fine group of professionals, at a well-established B.C. Lower Mainland school.  This brilliant group of professionals did make Anti-Bullying a priority; and I wanted to share this valuable experience with you.

After a 15 year hiatus from teaching on contract, this spring I ventured into teaching three days a week as a French Immersion Kindergarten Teacher.  When I arrived at this wonderful school, much to my surprise, these professionals were just starting to implement their yearly Anti-Bullying Program.

At my first of two  monthly staff meetings, the School Counselor got up to tell us about the school’s upcoming Pink T-Shirt Day, a National Anti-Bullying Week activity that he and his Anti-Bullying Committee were organizing for the whole school.

Secretly I thought to myself, “What, did I actually end up at a school where Anti-Bullying is made a priority?”  From my previous 25 years in the teaching profession, with 15 years as a teacher on contract and 10 years as a teacher on call, I must admit, this had often not been the case.  Here and now, at this school, I was about to see a new Anti-Bullying Program implemented first hand, and expertly.

To set the stage, though, I want to share with you my earlier teaching experiences with Anti-Bullying Programs.

Anti-Bullying Programs of Yesteryear

25 years ago, Anti-Bullying Programs were just starting out in Lower Mainland Schools.  At that time, I felt a strong need to have effective strategies to prevent Bullying in my classroom.

I was teaching Grades K-3, and  I had heard rumors that one of our district’s principals was implementing the first Anti-Bullying Program at his school.  So, after school one day I made an appointment with him, and he offered me his Anti-Bullying file.

I remember being a bit shocked when I first saw it: a large file, brimming over with loose papers, with some printed and many hand-written notes.  I remember asking him where the program came from, and I believe he replied that the program came from an introductory workshop made at a Principal’s Meeting.  Now, this principal tells me he remembers this first program was called, “Bully Beware.”

Despite my hesitation over the informality of this file, though, I rifled through it, and I copied everything that seemed relevant.  I then took it back to our school.  At our next Staff Meeting, I proposed that we implement the program.

After the usual discussion at our Staff Meeting, however, the principal that I was working with at the time recommended that we do not implement the program.  Needless to say, I was disappointed.  To his credit, though, he had a number of good reasons.  First, he felt it was more important to implement the new Social Skills Program that our district had just purchased for all of our schools, called The Second Step Program.  Especially, he wanted us to teach the Problem Solving Unit within that program.

He knew more about the first Anti-Bullying Program than I’d thought, informing us that learning Problem Solving Skills was an important part of the new Anti-Bullying Program.  When teaching this Unit, I learned that this principal was right.  Basically, the unit taught conflict resolutions skills, and especially how to be assertive in any situation.  This is a key and effective strategy in Anti-Bullying Programs today.

Next, our principal shared that there were really very few resources included in this new Anti-Bullying Program.  That, I could to attest to, having seen the original file.

Third, he added that even those people implementing the program had found that incidences of Bullying even increased when implementing this program.  As a principal, and often being the final recipient of challenging behavior at school, he was moving forward cautiously.   I respected this, and so I let it go.

Secretly to myself though, I thought, I think I know why this program actually increases bullying.  When I was looking through this program, even in its beginning stages, I was quite concerned with its emphasis on so many negative wordings and images.  I knew from my own lay psychological studies that negative words, especially when repeated, often created the reality that the words described.  As I looked through the program, I saw the word “Bullying” over and over again, with accompanying bullying images being viewed and drawn.  So, while the intent of the program was positive, I, too, was concerned about some of the program’s negative influences.

The lay psychological information that I had, however, was quite new information, and so I wasn’t really confident that my input would be accepted.

I had been very lucky to meet and study with one of the pioneering teachers in new thought psychologies, and her name was Jann Timmreck.  The title of her work was The List AKA Reality Dynamics.  The findings of her work, however, were not yet main stream.   So I waited for a more appropriate time to share them; and I continued to research and develop the education system’s and my own Anti-Bullying Strategies.

Emotional Bullying Identified

One of the very positive and important points that I remember from this first Anti-Bullying program, however, was that Emotional Bullying was for the first time clearly identified.  Emotional Bullying included activities such as teasing, taunting, name calling, exclusion, and not respecting another person’s space.  Physical Bullying, such as hitting in all of its various forms, was really more obvious.  For the most part, it had long been identified and dealt with.  But the emphasis on Emotional Bullying was new; and I felt, long overdue.

Emotional Bullying, at least at my grade level, was a really big issue.  As a classroom teacher, I felt I was dealing with this type of Bullying at least several times a day, and every day.  Complaints such as, “Johnny called me stupid!”  “Sally laughed at my coat!” and “Frank budged!” were all very common in my Primary Classroom.  (Please note that throughout this article the identities have been changed to protect the very innocent!)  Usually the incident would have happened outside, on the playground or before school, and it was brought into the classroom when I opened that door.

While these problems may on the surface seem innocent and trite, to young students they are very important.  To a teacher, trying to deal with the emotions involved is both complex and time-consuming; but the fallout from not dealing with these problems can be even more challenging.  From my experience, unresolved emotional bullying leads to even more serious conflicts, and even more disruptions and thus lost learning time in the classroom.

In those earlier years, when asking for assistance as how to deal with Emotional Bullying, I often found that it was just “glossed over,” by teachers, administrators and parents alike.  Comments such as, “Tell the Supervisor,” “That’s an outside problem, not an inside one,” and “Tough it out,” easily dismissed the need for adult intervention.

What the first Anti-Bullying program did, however, was to start to shine the light on what exactly Emotional Bullying was, and eventually how important it was to deal with it.  The principal I was working with at the time asked us all to be more aware of this type of bullying, and in the future to treat it just as seriously as Physical Bullying.

Emotional Bullying at the Root of Teen Suicides

Overall, I now believe that this type of Bullying, Emotional Bullying, added to the exponential influence of our cyber world, is very much at the root of teen suicides.  Now especially, we need to learn strategies to deal with Emotional Bullying, just as much as Physical Bullying.

Granted, one of the simple reasons why Emotional Bullying is often glossed over in schools is that Emotional Bullying usually takes place in areas where adults are not.  As I touched on earlier, Bullying often takes place in “hidden places:” on the school playgrounds, during recess and lunch, in cloakrooms, or before and after school.  Essentially, Emotional Bullying takes place where students are not as closely supervised by an adult, and where they are left to interact with their own young and “burgeoning” social skills.

With a mandate for teachers to teach Reading, Writing and Math, and any number of new programs, in the past addressing Bullying has taken more of a side note.  Too, Problem Solving due to any type of Bullying can often take a lot of time to work out, and effective Problem Solving takes special knowledge and skills.  Hurt feelings are often caused unintentionally with younger children; but if you choose to problem solve about them, you need to take the time to talk with the students involved, and to carefully move the situation to final resolution.  All the while, too, you are supposed to be teaching 20 to 30 other students!  For myself, it took me almost half of my career to learn effective strategies to facilitate Problem Solving, especially in Emotional Bullying scenarios.  I will share the basics of these strategies further in other parts of this article.

Teen Suicides in BC

Continuing with my history with past Anti-Bullying Programs, fast forward to about three years ago, when many aboriginal teenagers had committed suicide in the Lake Cowichan area on Vancouver Island.  Then, the local RCMP and the Aboriginal Community were reaching out for help, just as Stephen Harper is doing now.  At the time, I had stopped teaching on contract, and I had long moved into substitute teaching.  I did this because I needed time to teach the lay psychological program I mentioned earlier, which explained why the anti-bullying program had inherent difficulties.  By this time, I was the co-author of the book, The List AKA Reality Dynamics, and I had moved into speaking about and teaching the program to churches, colleges and local societies.

I felt that The List Program had much to offer to the Cowichan teen suicide crisis, and I wanted to share the additional Anti-Bullying strategies that I had learned in my teaching career.  Essentially, The List Program helps to create much more safety for children, and much more prosperity and happiness for their families.  Being very effective, The List can also help parents to have more control over what happens in their children’s lives, in terms of who their children’s friends are, their children’s success at school, and the direction of their children’s future.  But after many calls, there seemed to be no way in.  Most everyone I could get through to did not even return my calls.

Finally, I even contacted the original principal who had implemented that very first Anti-Bullying Program in my district, 25 years ago.  When I reached him, this principal had been promoted to Director of Instruction in a different Lower Mainland School District.  (Someone was listening!)  He informed me, however, that he was no longer directly involved in Anti-Bullying Programs.  He did mention, though, that the BC Ministry of Education was now involved, under the Department of Safer Schools.  He added that this Department would be coming out soon with a new Anti-Bullying Program, titled E.R.A.S.E. Bullying (Expect Respect and A Safe Education.) 

So, even though he was no longer as directly involved, he was still “on the pulse.”  I was disappointed that I couldn’t find a way in to assist in Lake Cowichan.  I was also disappointed that this principal (I thought) was no longer involved in working with the program.  But I was relieved that the Ministry was going to make Anti-Bullying a priority.  I looked forward to seeing their new program, and I continued with substitute teaching and teaching my own prosperity and even Anti-Bullying Program, the List, AKA Reality Dynamics.

In further parts of this article, learn more about E.R.A.S.E. Bullying (Expect Respect and A Safe Education), Behavior Management Strategies, Peer Mediation, and much, much more.