12 Mar 2015

The penultimate class- Bully Proof

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I can’t believe we are so close to the end of this community.  I will honestly really miss what we have built together, but am so excited that so many youth/students will be working with these fine folk.  This past Monday’s class was focused around the leadership piece.  The required reading/viewing:

Chapter 3 of The Restorative Practice Handbook

CBC BullyProof:Classroom Confidential with Mark Kelley


Once again, I feel very lucky to have such wonderful mentors in my life and Terry Kharyati, principal of Hadley & Philemon Wright HS, generously offered to join our class and share his experiences with the filming of the documentary and also his views on building safe/supportive learning environments.  His no-holds barred approach was well received!

This week’s theme was around the arts, and music in particular.  It was a perfect time in our group building to take some risks!

Opening Circle:  Student-led

Creating SOUNDSCAPES:  In 2 groups, we were given the responsibility to create a soundscape for the other.  The 2 options were:  a zoo experience and a busy New York street.  With our eyes closed and listening to the soundscapes, these 2 places really came alive!


How creating a soundscape contributes to a safe, healthy, and supportive learning environment:

  • This activity helps to build an environment of inclusivity because each student is able to contribute and participate, no matter their comfort or ability level
  • This activity helps the class to become very grounded and rooted in their environment- by being aware of their surroundings students become cognizant of each other and the things that make them feel safe and comfortable (or unsafe or and uncomfortable)
  • As future teachers, we need to be hyper aware of our environments in order to create safe, healthy, and supportive learning environments that include all students
  • An essential part of a safe, healthy, and supportive learning environment includes listening to one another- to students, fellow staff, administration- and this activity promotes the importance of sound and attentive listening

Literature Circles:  

This was our last one!  They were short and sweet and focused around Mr. K’s documentary and also the leadership chapter.  Many questions surfaced that were then addressed by our guest presenter.  Here are some of the key comments/questions:

  • Bully booth- the impact- students shared the feelings. If that was there all the time- would it have the same impact?
  • The process of the bully proof- was there any restorative work- people hurt, etc? By keeping some students in the school are we hurting others?
  • How can we reach students in denial- how do we create the dialogue?
  • Resilience- we need to be talking about it in the schools-As teachers we need to use the proper vocab and can’t brush off what students tell us?
  • What happened to the students after the documentary? Sharing bullying stories from past and how this plays out after- some empowerment but for others- did situation change or make some students more vulnerable?
  • Personal relationships- if all teachers have relationships would this decrease the bullying..rather than putting it on other students?
  • Role of families as support systems- provide parents with tips, support groups. Hard to overstep this line.
  • How do we as professionals handle when students open up with difficult situations- when to point to guidance/outside sources?
  • Do these documentaries rely too heavy on the actual incidents rather than issues underneath- shows empathy… focus on emotional responses- tears on camera/pain..good and media frenzy approach.
  • Why are bullies those closest to us at one point in time? Fact of life to deal with it- cyberbullying’s reach– teenage antics vs bullying. Lack of support. Can you ever have too much support?
  • Pink shirt day- falling short? Is this a forced initiative- promote idea behind it- support each other- symbolic gesture. Each student write a personal contract for shirt?
  • Look for our own traits in students- impede ability to be objective- unbiased. Every student should have one adult connection.
  • Effect of bullying on mental health- important to talk about this and have strategies- do this in every class. Arts/history and language…high suicide rates- mindfulness/relationship
  • Music therapy- role of teacher as professional and when to share our stories and keep some of the limits- boundaries
  • Second chances- students are growing and not fixed in who they are and how they learn.
  • What did TK think of the documentary after it was aired?
  • How do we get proper statistics on bullying?
  • How does the system work against you as an administrator– the journey and handcuffs.

Energizer:  Name & adjective with Who’s missing?

We did a quick circle go-round where we shared our name and a defining adjective.  We then played a game that had us move around the class- one person blind in the middle of the circle.  When the music stopped, they would have to name the 3 people who were removed from the class.  This was so much harder than it looked and our 2 volunteers were INCREDIBLE!!

Guest presentation:

Mr. K shared a bunch of excellent resources and his own experience with building a safe and supportive learning environment.  I will add his resources at a later date.

Closing circle:  CAMP FIRE and sing-along.

Who knew??  It is quite startling to think that we have made it to this point as a class.  If I had let people know that we would be doing a sing-along in a University classroom, I think I would have had a lot of resistance. But it was chosen by members of our community and brilliantly facilitated by students.  We wrote down something we bring to our future classes as people (to build safe/supportive classrooms) on a popsicle stick and then added that to our ‘fake’ fire…metaphorically stoking it.  We then did a communal sing along– guitars and fiddles and many musical instruments.  So much fun and a wonderful experience that shows how far we came as a group.


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