Four ideas for educating in a way that may serve to decrease bullying:
- Develop a school-wide focus on values that, while focusing on positive attributes of what it means to be human, implicitly discourage mistreatment of “the other.” So, for example, my previous employer, the American International School in Hong Kong developed “Expected Schoolwide Learning Results” that focused on among other things global citizenship and well-rounded individuality. My present school has something called “Success Orientations” that include trustworthiness, responsibility, concern for others, kindness and politeness, and group interaction.
- Permit students to develop their own set of classroom rules, as well as a “vision statement” for the class. Here are my class rules (posted on the wall and signed by the students) as well as their vision statement:
- Use Understanding by Design’s Facets of Understanding instead of Bloom’s Taxonomy, or some variant thereof, to guide instruction. I like the Facets of Understanding because at its highest levels, it asks student to compare (Perception), empathize and explore self-knowledge. Those endeavors are not only educationally valuable, but also encourage exploration of ideas that will eventually serve to inhibit bullying behavior. The shift from Bloom’s to Facet’s of Understanding is subtle but important.
- Model empathetic behavior to students, and toward others as well. This can be done through unit plans (developing essential questions such as “What is so special about the other?”), lesson ideas (exploring empathy toward post-classical Chinese efforts at unification, which cost thousands of lives), and by simply stopping the educational process when bullying happens to discuss why it happened, and what it means. I do not think we serve our students well to pretend that there really is not an elephant in the room. We should bring it out in the open and discuss it.
These are four ideas that I use to discourage not just bullying behavior, but to also encourage positive behaviors such as compassion for those different from us. What are your ideas?