Bullying from First Grade on Up

Carrie Goldman has a ChicagoNow blog called Portrait of an Adoption. In a November blog she wrote about the bullying her daughter received from her fellow boy classmates in the first grade for bringing a Star Wars water bottle to school. 

CAMP PENDLETON, CA - MARCH 27:  Michael Samsa, 11, hangs out with his Stuart Mesa Elementary School classmates during recess at Camp Pendleton Marine Base March 27, 2003 near Oceanside, California. Many students at the school are coping with parents being deployed in the U.S.-led war on Iraq.  Samsa's father, Staff Sgt. William Saunders, is serving in the war.  (Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)

She has received national attention for drawing attention to this important issue. Goldman stated that each of the bullies were wonderful with her daughter on an individual play date basis, but when they got in a group, it turned ugly. 
I have dealt with this exact issue with a pack of girls with whom my daughter plays. Individually, they play well. Yet, Ana has come home night after night talking about how she is made fun of for the hat she wears; for putting on ski pants to go on the playground on very cold days; for not pretending she is 16 and "sexy" (she thinks it means "stylish"); for not laughing at kids who are acting our at class; for not being disrespectful with teachers...and this is a very reputable and successful school.
So Ana began to adopt many of these behaviors to acheive acceptance and at one point, she was the one excluding other kids. I was shocked when I first witnessed this kind of response to wanting to be liked or not made fun of by these kids. She cried at night that she didn't have friends that weren't mean (in groups) and said that she knew she acted mean to be like them.
It took a lot of talk about respect, values, differences, tolerance for others so that Ana now fights more with herself than others about how to behave and be liked -even though she knows being liked isn't the most important part of what we value. We pray for those who hurt her, so they won't be scared and sad, which we talk about as the reason for meanness. And we pray that we don't feel sad and scared about not being liked so we act the same way.
What is missing from Public Schools is a Values program that teaches social and emotional intelligence.For example, in one elementary school, they identify standards for student behavior:
I am here to learn, so
  • I will be respectful 
  • I will be responsible,
  • I will be safe
  • I will be prepared
and then each year has a theme, such as "Great Students! Great Staff! Great Expectations!" Even in the Chicago Public Schools in the suburbs, they have instituted values that includes role playing conflict resolution in each grade.
The Collaborative for Social and Emotional Learning or CASEL is a program used by many schools to address bullying, values and conflict resolution. 
How can children learn to behave in a kind and helpful way without positive modelling - rather than being told what not to do?
Do you know of any great models of values or social and emotional learning in public schools? What do you say to your children to work through the meanness?

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