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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

NEA Provides Educators with Guidance on Preventing Workplace Bullying

By Cindy Long

Kim Werner’s former principal was identified by her union as the most abusive principal in the district.
“He has been targeting educators for fifteen years,” she says. “He lies. He coerces.  He intimidates.  He screams and uses profanities.”
And he’s still a principal, while Werner is now an Olweus Bullying Prevention Program Trainer.
After a year and a half of constant abuse, Werner took medical leave and reported her principal. She was covered by the district’s Bullying and Harassment policy, and while on leave, requested public records about complaints filed by other educators at her school.
“I soon discovered the horror other educators had experienced under his leadership,” Werner says. “I was shocked and sick inside.  These were simply people who spoke up and addressed his intimidation tactics. They suffered greatly–both professionally and emotionally.”
Bullying leadership is often based upon fear, Werner says, and because bullying principals are scared they “disperse that fear throughout their schools.”
“They are afraid that some piece of bad news will ‘get out’ about their schools and so they manipulate people and data to meet their needs,” she says. “It’s happening throughout the nation.”
She says that when she was bullied, she felt very scared and alone, but ultimately decided to take action. What others do in response to bullying, however, can vary greatly.
“Some align with the bullying brute.  That feels safe,” she says. “Most hide.  A few stand up and say, ‘That’s not right,’ but very few of the ‘hiders’ will support those who stand up because they think it’s not safe, and they’re right.”
To help local NEA affiliates support members who are being targeted by administrators, delegates to the 2012 NEA Annual Meeting and Representative Assembly passed a resolution to “Defend the Rights and Dignity of Educators.”
It calls for NEA to inform its members on ways to challenge administrator abuse of teachers and other education employees, and to support local NEA affiliate efforts to defend the rights and dignity of teachers and other education employees.
“There is no way children will ever be safe from bullying if adults in schools aren’t safe from the same.  Until we assure safety for ALL–children and adults in schools– we will continue to lose the battle,” says Werner.  “It’s treating others with respect and kindness and patience and love.  That’s the real work.”

6:48 am edt          Comments

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Specific steps to end bullying in your schools: This is not brain surgery.

The success of an anti-bullying campaign lies in empowering an entire school--staff, students and parents--in comprehensively addressing bullying prevention. The goal of a bullying prevention program is to infuse positive values into the fabric of the school.  It is not easy to do that. It takes time and commitment.

Success, also, depends on knowledgeable and committed leadership.  No campaign, however earnest the staff may be, will have true success without leadership on this issue from the school's administration.  Leadership, leadership. leadership.  Or a program simply will not work.

So, assuming there is unconditional leadership support, how do you empower and educate the entire school population on effective bullying prevention?  You do that by training everybody at your school.  You train all teachers and all staff. You also select a program coordinator or co-coordinators.
Ideally, the training is one and one half day. There is a lot of material to cover.  That material includes defining bullying so that all begin from the same vantage point.  It also includes the "nuts and bolts" of effective prevention.  

Effective prevention is like the three legged stool.  All three legs are essential to a sound and long lasting program.  

The legs of effective prevention are:

1. School wide efforts.  This "leg" includes, among other things, anti-bullying rules and posters displayed throughout the school.  It also includes a kick off event.

2.Classroom efforts.  It's of paramount importance that all teachers--and supported by the principal--facilitate weekly discussions around bullying prevention and respectful behavior.  It's also important that all teachers, although discussions can be altered to meet younger/older student needs, discuss the same topic each week. 

3. Individual efforts.  Effective interventions are necessary when bullying is witnessed. It's important that children come to expect the same consequences whether, for example, they bully at the drinking fountain and Ms. Smith sees them, or Mr. Jones catches an eighth grade student intimidating a sixth grader at the library. Also, practicing specific actions --what to do and what to say--when bullying is witnessed is important.

Surveying students as to their feelings about bullying at their schools is critical. That survey must take place before a program's implementation.  The survey results provide a baseline from which to work.

That's how a school, or a school district, truly addresses bullying and works effectively at ending it for good.

And for what it's worth, the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program is the best "out there."

8:37 am edt          Comments

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Trombones, Hornets, and Snowmen.....
I begin to put together my own "Piece Full World:"
Musings from "The Other Side:" Trombones, Hornets, and Snowmen...

Perhaps, then, it falls to me to put together the pieces of 1960's Mt. Cory, Ohio. because at thirteen I left. My piece of Mt. Cory is a snap shot in time; at thirteen, in the summer of 1970, my family moved to Chicago. Friends: Carol of long "thirteen year old girl" conversations about boys, and Barry, the primary boy of those conversations;  Dorinda, Martha, and Nancy, my church quartet singing compatriots; Dolores and, again, Carol, fellow cheerleaders; cousins--more like brothers to me because they were more like sons than nephews to my father and mother--Mike, Chris, Joe, and Bill; they all stayed.  All grew up in or near Mt. Cory. Went to high school there. Almost all stayed and married and raised children there.

 I put these pieces together because, I think, I must.  Something compells me, wakes me at night with more and more and more to put into words.  It is like a compulsion. I don't know why, after 43 years--most of them outstanding, fun, and fulfulled...some not--this is so.  Right now, however, the only way to alleviate this compulsion is to honor it. I honor it with effort. I do not, however, honor it adequately with my written words, for how can I?  That is impossible.  Yet, still; that damn cumpulsion will keep me up tonight if I do not keep typing.

 Mt. Cory is my foundation; my roots there are deep.  Mt. Cory is the place of the rich soil from which my life began and grew.  It is a soil enriched with my own family's history: a grandmother killed by a train; a nine year old cousin accidentally killed by a bullet; a basketball star of a father--a breaker of hearts that young man!; a mother and her twin, stars in high school plays; one twin yelling "Die you bally-ass!  Die!" as she lept over an onstage couch.  The other twin, the "bally-ass" dying, I am sure, a spectacular on stage death.  

I think Mom was the couch leaper, so Aunt Deane must have been the "bally-ass."

 What is Mt. Cory to someone not rooted there?  A small, non descript place of five or six streets, two churches, a stop light.  Small houses, big yards; a volunteer fire department building from which the siren, I expect, still blasts for practice at noon on Saturdays. 

 "What did you DO HERE?" my husband has asked on Ohio visits as a winter sky darkens at 4:00PM. He--and I--have now lived in Miami for close to 35 years and he is from Atlanta, so, a fan of Ohio winters he is not.  He, though, does not know of snow fights and frozen hair (and snot). He was not there when Carol and I "unfroze" at her grandmother's house, after a vigorous snowball fight with pretty much every kid in Mt. Cory, outside of town at a snow filled gully. Carol and I playing a "who-can-read-the-most-without-stopping" competition from a book--"Start over!  You didn't say it right!"--as our hair dried and we warmed beside the furnace, giggling and laughing. 

 I do not know if Carol's grandmother provided hot chocolate.  I imagine so.

 My husband does not know of the snowmen assembled with my dad in the same yard my dad, as a boy, built snowmen; for I grew up in the same house as he. I have a picture of myself in that yard. I am leaning against a rotund snowman. The bottom of the three snowballs of its body is much taller than me at six. That's because my dad had left a warm house, a cup of coffee, and a newspaper, and had joined me in the pushing of snow as it creaked and rolled, exposing the winter deadened grass with each shove. Dad had to stack the other two body balls in place.  He then lifted me to put in place its eyes, nose, and mouth.  I think we used gravel rocks from our driveway.  

 I wish dad were in the picture too.  I wish he were leaning against the other side of our snowman.  Leaning there, grinning, with his ankles crossed like mine on my side of our snow giant. Guess knowing he was grinning behind a camera as he took a picture of his grinning six year old daughter will have to be enough.
 My husband does know that I played a trombone in the junior high school band. He may not know that Carol played trombone too.  I'd wanted a flute or a clarinet, but my cousin Phil had a trombone I could use for free, and so, if I wanted to play in the band, it was that trombone or not play at all.  I chose the trombone.  Unbeknownst to the neighbors, they too chose Phil's trombone, for I would practice on our front porch. To the Thompson's and the Cooper's  credit, no one to my knowledge, ever complained. 

 I used to worry that my puffed up lips, following a rousing trombone practice session, would remain.  I laugh now at 56 as I contemplate trombone playing being an alternative to "lip enhancement."  "Just pick up a trombone, press it to your lips and run through a few scales; you'll be good to go for the evening," I'd say to clients of my new lip enhancement strategy.  (Please keep this secret, just in case I move forward with my "trombone lip enhancement" business plan).

 Barry, the boy of the "Carol" conversations, would often drive by our back street house-- that's probably the real reason I chose the front porch for trombone practicing-- and he would beep; usually a double staccato, "beep-beep!" as he drove by in his new green Hornet.  If that Hornet passed my house without the double "beep," I was crestfallen.  

 It was then time for a "Carol" conversation...

 Over the years, I have closed my eyes and imagined myself in different places and what was there and there and there at that time of my life.  What, for instance, was on the wall of my Ohio bedroom when I laid on my right side?  On my left?  What clothes were in my closet?  Funny how the Ohio house is clear to me, while the houses of my family's many moves--Chicago and Pittsburgh and Cleveland and Buffalo houses--are not.  There's a large picture of flowers on my right in the Ohio bedroom, a small window to my left.  I can see the Thompson's house. There are books in the headboard of my bed.  My favorites are "Fairer Than She" and "Annie Jordan."  There are thirteen steps to descend. There is a furnace in the corner of the living room.  Mom has hidden it with paneling.  It looks nice. 

 There is a porch with a slamming screen door.  Think I'll go sit on it and practice a trombone.

5:35 am edt          Comments

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