The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

October 28, 2013

Try to make a difference every day

Staff Writer

— Teacher rises to the challenge! Every year I teach a graduate course for educators that can help to reduce bullying in their classroom.

After the course is done, I often wonder how the programs has changed the teacher and the students. This past Saturday I had a pleasant surprise.

While teaching another course at Hiram College one of my adult students asked me if I also taught courses in bully prevention to teachers.

He smiled when I said yes and proceeded to thank me for helping his wife change the lives of her students.

I was so pleased to hear that she liked the class but the rest of the story brought tears to my eyes.

Mrs. W is a music teacher in a suburban Cleveland school system. She thought that the curriculum for the course was learning was excellent but she wasn’t sure how she could use it in her high school music classes.

Over the summer she reworked her lesson plans and quietly set out to create a classroom climate where everyone would be treated with dignity and respect.

From the very first day, the students learned that her classroom was different.

The students were asked to write down a description of their strongest trait or ability on one note card.

On another note care, they were asked to write down a description of bullying that had happened to them or that they had witnessed.

The positive abilities cards were placed on the classroom door to symbolize that, the students could use these abilities to go forward in the world and see the best in each other.

The other cards about bullying were placed on a closet door symbolizing that bullying doesn’t go anywhere!

Some students even confided to Mrs. W. that they didn’t know bullying was happening to anyone else.

The teacher and the students also went over the lyrics of the music to select positive songs for the performances that reflect treating others with respect and dignity.

The concerts have been so moving to the students and parents in the audience that more students have been encouraged to join the school chorus.

Mrs. W. didn’t let her limited time with her student sstop her from making her classroom a safe and respectful place for everyone.

She didn’t allow bullying to be a part of her classroom and she made sure that her students knew that they were not alone if they had been bullied.

The best part for me, is to know that this caring adult is still working on bringing more social justice into her classroom by adding additional peer to peer counseling training and groups as extra-curricular programing.

She has seen the growth and change in her students and wants to provide more of the education and prevention that will help them develop in to strong caring adults.

I was touched that her husband was so proud of the efforts that his wife had made in her classroom and school but also that he wanted me to know about these efforts.

I simply taught the curriculum that I believe in but Mrs. W. has truly made a difference in her student’s lives.

So to all of the teachers who strive to bring social justice and dignity to your classroom and students, thank you! You are making a difference every day!

Remember, education and prevention are key to keeping our children bully free.