A Guest Blog By Angelia Ebner, 2016 Ambassador for Excellence and 5th Grade Teacher at Maricopa Elementary
We are on a path to eradicating bullying here at Maricopa Elementary School. Our students no longer tolerate bullying behavior and are on a mission to make sure all students feel safe at school. I don’t teach in a school full of rainbows, unicorns, and pixie fairies, but what we have done is found a way to empower student leaders to take control of their situations and futures.
“Bullying” is a word that can incite raging arguments at its mere mention. Adults and children use this word, but some feel the word has deviated from its original meaning. Merriam-Webster defines a bully as: “a blustering browbeating person; especially: one habitually cruel to others who are weaker or a hired ruffian.”
Fortunately or not, learning social norms is part of a child’s development and that comes with successes and failures. Young children learning to navigate a world that is not all about them can make them angry, frustrated and sometimes mean, but that does not necessarily make them a bully or guilty of bullying.
I interviewed three students at my school, who happened to be with me for a detention and they had very interesting ideas surrounding bullying at our school. All three felt that we don’t have bullies. They agreed that we do have kids who can be mean at times or make poor life choices, but that they are not bullies. The three students agreed that the reason we don’t have bullies at our school is due to having a strict code of student conduct and having a Principal and Vice Principal who follow through on consequences. They stated this, along with student leadership, as the biggest differences between our school and other schools they had attended where bullying was a problem.
At our school we have adopted the Leader in Me program. We now have student-run safety patrols and S.O.S.As (students on special assignment) who help with school tours, monitoring school events, and even sit on the interview team when we are interviewing prospective teachers. Students on our campus feel valued and respected by their peers and their teachers. Our teaching staff has also found creative ways to support and “share” challenging students in order to provide them with choices and opportunities for success with different adults on campus. Building these relationships does a lot for ensuring that our students feel like OUR students and that they are not just the responsibility of one teacher or another. Our teachers work together to mentor students from various grades and classes and coach them through responsibility, conflict resolution, and plans of action.
Our school is eradicating bullying because we have created a school climate of empowerment and leadership. By working together to grow the leaders of tomorrow we can create students with self-esteem high enough to stand up to bullies and students who feel valued enough not to bully others in the first place.