Month: October 2019

5 Essential Ways to Prevent Bullying in Our Schools

In every age and every grade, students commit a certain level of unkindness and insensitive behavior. It’s up to parents, schools and communities to model and encourage positive interpersonal behavior, regardless of whether kids naturally get along. As much as we would like to think that students in Jewish day schools internalize Torah values that would prevent bullying, kids will naturally act like, well, kids. It’s cliche, but, indeed, it takes a village. 

Bullying, however, is different

It’s important that everyone working with children and teens understands appropriate boundaries on what is bullying and imparts them upon the young people we guide. Bullying differs from normal conflict between students with one important factor: the intent to harm. Normal conflict arises when students are testing limits and learning social cues. Bullying occurs when a student intends to harm another student physically, verbally or emotionally.

The National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice states that 20% of students age 12-18 experience bullying, and yet only a fraction of those students notify an adult.

Bullying is defined as “unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.” This leaves a lasting impact for both the kids being bullied and the bully him or herself.

In his work, No Place for Bullying, author and principal James Dillon writes that with bullying “the reality is that no one is to blame, yet everyone is responsible.” 

In honor of October’s National Bullying Prevention Month, check out 5 tips to help prevent bullying year round:

1)  Reduce conditions that contribute to bullying

Bullying often occurs in areas with little supervision. This makes it incredibly important to have increased adult supervision and to have adults be on the lookout for bullying behavior during recess, open gym or in the hall between classes. Each Jewish day school environment varie, and it’s important for staff to assess situations can trigger bullying to better target prevention efforts.  

 2)  Establish a Positive School Culture

Culture starts at the top in any organization, including Jewish day schools. Schools with positive programming to promote values like kindness and communication are better equipped to deal with students who do not act according to school values. These values should be communicated to teachers, students and parents regularly, and everyone should understand school rules pertaining to bullying. Teachers, who are most likely to witness or first hear about any issues, should be equipped with the skills to assess bullying behaviors and have an action plan to react appropriately. When it comes to professional development training, include anti-bullying training can help teachers identify behaviors and learn how to intervene effectively when necessary.

3)  Encourage Communication

Research suggests that children look to parents and caregivers for advice in challenging situations. However, it’s not unusual for teachers and school faculty members who work on building positive relationships with students to hear about challenges in school. According to the “Stop Bullying” government initiative, asking students open ended questions and then narrowing the focus could be an effective way to encourage students to open up about potential bullying.

4)  Empower kids to understand and help prevent bullying

By encouraging positive social behaviors at school assemblies and events, the school can increase awareness of bullying. Teach students what bullying looks like with relatable examples and help them learn how to stand up to it safely. Make sure that all students know the action plan for what to do if they are being bullied or know someone being bullied. Another way to empower students is to help kids take part in activities they enjoy. This can help build confidence that can help protect kids from bullying.  

5)  Respond immediately

By not responding immediately to bullying, teachers and administration can inadvertently send the message that your school does not take bullying seriously, possibly causing the behavior to spread. When adults respond quickly and consistently to bullying behavior, they send the message that it is not acceptable. Research shows this can stop bullying behavior over time.

Helpful links with more information on bullying:

How Parents Can Model Instructions

When it comes to parenting, typical instruction involves you verbally telling your children what you expected. If your expectations were clearly statedwhy is it, then, that your kids often still don’t know what to do or just don’t do it? 

The same challenge exists in the classroom for our teachers. The good news is that the method we at the ATT have taught teachers to reinforce instruction modeling can work at home as well.

When it comes to addressing this issue in the classroom, the Responsive Classroom––an evidence-based approach to teaching––developed a 7-Step Method called Interactive Modeling to effectively introduce and reinforce procedures. Several ATT teachers learned this method in depth last year as part of a program to train them in Station Rotation.

Last fall ATT and REACH staff introduced the Station Rotation Teaching Initiative to 11 motivated ACHDS and YTT teachers, who joined group instruction and benefitted from classroom observations and individual coaching. Station Rotation Teaching creates flexible learning groups in the classroom using a variety of learning modalities.

This ground breaking nation rotation initiative can benefits parents in the home as well.

Rabbi Yitzchak Lurie has adapted this 7-Step Method of Interactive Modeling for use not just in the classroom, but in our homes as well. All seven steps are meant to be done in immediate succession – all in a matter of 3-5 minutes.

Step #1– Describe why you are introducing the procedure, and what it is

Step #2 – Model the procedure

This doesn’t just mean showing your appreciation after you eat a meal and cleaning up after yourself. Rather, it means to actually show your children what they should do after they eat a meal. For example, you can model the procedure by acting it out:

“Chaim, would you be Mommy for a minute, and I’ll pretend to be you? Come, sit down in my chair while I sit down in your chair.  I’ll take my last bite of the meal.”

After swapping seats and taking a last bite – 

Parent (pretending to be the child) says a bracha acharona (or for younger children, thank you Hashem for the delicious food), and then (while looking at the child), “Thank you Mommy for dinner.  The food was delicious.”

Parent then gets up to clear her plate, throwing out what needs to be thrown out and putting the dirty dishes in the sink.

Actually showing our children the behaviors that we desire speaks a multitude more than words alone.

Step #3 – Ask your children what they noticed (about your modeling)

The goal is for them to be very specific and articulate all of the behavioral expectations that you laid out in Step #1 and modeled in Step #2.

“What did you notice about what I did after my last bite of food?” You want your children to say something along the lines of – I noticed that you said a bracha acharona to thank Hashem, and then you also thanked Mommy for the delicious food. You then got up from your chair and cleared your plate, throwing out what needs to be thrown out and putting the dirty dishes in the sink. 

Most children will not include all that detail on the first try so your next strategy is to ask some leading questions to get them there. However, it is important that you don’t give it all away. You want them to come up with the details which, in most cases, means modeling again.

Step #4 – Ask your children to model the same behavior

The goal is for them to immediately practice the actions that they verbalized in Step #3. As part of teaching them this procedure, the children should model it/practice it immediately after Steps #1, 2 & 3.

“Who wants to show us what to do after you finish your last bite of food?”

Step #5 – Ask your children what they noticed (about their brother’s/sister’s modeling)

Almost identical to Step #3, this is one of the keys to success in making the procedure stick! You want your children to be able to articulate details about what they saw when their sibling modeled the procedure. It’s not just about hearing what they’re supposed to do (Step #1), watching what they’re supposed to do (Steps #2 & 4), practicing what they’re supposed to do (Step #4) – but the children need to be able to verbalize the specifics about what they’re supposed to do (Steps #3 & 5).

As we said in Step #3, many children will not include all the detail on the first try so your next strategy is to ask some leading questions to get them there.

To continue our example: 

“What did you notice about what Chaim did after his last bite of food?”

Some leading questions-

After Chaim’s last bite of food, did he talk to Hashem? What did he say?Did he say anything else? Did Chaim do anything after he threw out the garbage on his plate?

Step #6 – Have your children practice the procedure

Every child responsible for the procedure needs to have an opportunity to practice – whether in the “modeling step” (#4) or in the “practicing step” (#6).

Once your children understand what’s expected of them both descriptively, now it’s time to make it stick. They should practice so that it becomes natural and automatic.

Step #7 – Give specific praise

As your children are practicing the procedure (Step #6), give them very specific praise. Stay away from only using general sentiments like Great job! or You did it! Instead, you want to re-articulate the same details as part of your specific praise.

To continue our example: 

“You did a great job!  You said a beautiful bracha acharona and then you thanked me for the delicious food. You also did a great job when you cleared your plate, throwing out what needs to be thrown out and putting the dirty dishes in the sink!  Overall, I think you’ve really learned how to show your appreciation to Hashem and Mommy and to act with derech eretz by cleaning up after yourself.  I’m so proud of you!”

Once you get the hang of this, all seven steps are meant to be done in immediate succession – all in a matter of 3-5 minutes.  It will take us some time to understand each of the steps, but once we, as parents, understand the process, the application is meant to be relatively fluid.  Then, following the initial teaching of the procedure through the 7 steps, it will still be important to review periodically – either by thoughtfully selecting certain steps or by repeating the whole process from time to time.