130 Teachers Changed: Anti-bullying Presentation Recap
February 22, 2011 § 6 Comments
“I’m proud of you, all of you, for being so brave” my Chinese language teacher managed to utter, her tears audibly hanging back, as she spoke to me via phone the day after our presentation. “We want to change, we need to change,” she confided with conviction softly- and as these words processed, I smiled understanding that our presentation had worked. If anything, we had initiated change, and what more can we ask for?
The night before the presentation, I imagined my teachers’ eyes staring at me – some piercing, some welcoming. How they would respond, I had no idea. My dreams mimicked the uncertainty of the morning and kept me from sleeping well for a few hours. But then I was awoken to my phone buzzing brightly, 1 new message. “Good luck on your presentation tomorrow, ~ Coach.” And that was all it took. I slept soundly afterwards straight till the next morning when I awoke to a phone constantly buzzing – “good luck” my friends and sister sent me.
The morning of the presentation I finally saw my teachers’ eyes, many already glossed over with tears before we even began, searching for answers. Prior to our group’s entrance to the library, the stage where we would start our discussion with the teachers, the administration played Joel Byrne’s “It Gets Better” video. Not only did our High School teachers watch this video, but our Middle School and Elementary School teachers as well! It’s wide sweeping movements like these which can permeate a community like mine and invoke change. Our teachers weren’t uninterested or cold to our needs, they wanted to help as if it was a necessity at that moment – though it should be a necessity during every moment.
Sitting beside me were 6 peers. One was an open lesbian, three were African Americans, and two were girls well acquainted with the treacheries of bullying. Turns out, the presentation was exactly how I described it to my mother: a presentation on bullying as a whole and it’s many dimensions, one of which being lgbt. While I believe the presentation to be a success, such a wide array of topics are hard to cover in a limited time span – we had under an hour to talk. In the future, we all agreed that spending time with the teachers in smaller groups could have been beneficial as it would allow a more personal means of communication and for more questions to be answered. Nevertheless, we covered the major points and concluded that:
Teachers Need Cognizance
A common misconception amongst students is that a teacher sees and hears everything when she’s in the same room. While a teacher may be within earshot, it doesn’t mean they are actively listening to every conversation. At the same time, a teacher should strive to be aware of what her students are saying and if she hears an offensive slur or taunt, should stop it and most importantly – use it as a lesson. Teach the students why its wrong instead of just punishing them. This is especially true in the hallways of High Schools where a great deal of bullying can take place. Add a few watchful teachers to the hallway and suddenly a lot of the bullying stops.
Support Needs Visibility
Many of the teachers looked surprised to hear that our strongest recommendation was increased visibility in support. A majority of my High School’s teachers are always open to talk and want to, if they can calm a student’s nerves or prevent bullying from getting out of hand; a majority also don’t remind students of their availability – ever. The night after our presentation, I received three fb messages from various teachers asking just how to do this. My recommendations: verbalize your availability. Reach out to your students. Hang a sign or poster which invites students to talk, with a phrase similar to: “Need to talk? My door is always open” Or “Have an issue? I have tissues, come in and talk.” Or just build relationships with them from the beginning and they will come to talk.
Where To Go From Here
Because our time felt cut short, my peers and I agreed to propose a project – a “How to” for teachers who want to help. We will also begin working with our guidance department to better understand (and potentially alter) the ways in which parents are brought into these situations so that more parents are aware of their child’s actions. Our “How to” will consist of ideas, suggestions, and tools like the aforementioned Lets Talk posters. These will be generalized for everyone, but a portion pertaining to lgbtq will be created – and that is what I am currently working on.
Since all of you had many great suggestions, I will be compiling them into a helpful pdf for students and teachers to use – to work together and better their in-school environment as I think this can be very beneficial. What do you think? Would you email a teacher a pdf with resources and ideas which they can use to make their classroom more lgbt friendly?
Also, thanks to Tyler Gschaid, Jon, and Fred in particular for their collection of helpful sites, and to the rest of you who emailed, facebooked, commented, or tweeted me your ideas! Many of them will be used and credit will be given to each of you.
If you have any more ideas or suggestions I would love to hear them – or if you have other ways in which you would like to help I am open to anything. To read the current (awesome) suggestions, click here!
The Friday morning presentation was just one step of many which we’ll be taking to better our school and make it more welcoming. Though all the ideas I had ready to propose were not shared, they shall not be forgotten and will be communicated many times before I graduate. If there is one thing I will leave my school with after graduating, it will be our vision of equality – as presented by our community, and how to achieve it!