I’m surprised the truant officer from the Department of Blogging hasn’t been pounding on my door. Yup, I’ve been absent for a long time, but I’m hoping it will be an excused absence. I have been doing my homework, although I haven’t turned it in! If you need help catching up on your “homework” and haven’t had any time at all to plan, it’s still not too late to organize some activities for National Bullying Prevention month. And guess what, if October doesn’t work at your school, you can choose a different month to focus on bullying prevention. (Our Mix It Up Day will be mixing itself into a different season.) See below for some simple ideas and free resources. But first, my excuse.
This has been the most difficult, intense start to my school year ever. The extent of trauma and crisis has been astounding and overwhelming. I’ve had to cancel classes and delay the start of groups. We just finished our sixth week of school and I haven’t even reviewed all the new kids’ files yet! I’ve been working late – until 6:30 a couple of nights – and spent almost every evening and weekend day at home trying to keep up with the essential things that have to get done. My preparation for this year’s Open House was a far cry from last year’s, and basically consisted of wiping tears off my face after a contentious meeting, writing my name on a nametag, and being friendly and welcoming. I did get one day off, when I got back spasms, which required medication that made me completely useless Hmm, I wonder if stress had anything to do with it?
Thank goodness for a sense of humor, though. One afternoon a student asked me, with all seriousness, “Did you come to school with bedhead?” and although we were in the midst of a really bad situation, I just cracked up, which made him smile for the first time all day. What I said was, “I don’t know, maybe,” but what I thought was, “Perhaps ducking projectiles, an outdoor chase scene, and zero visits to the bathroom today had something to do with it.” Ours is not a glamorous profession!
Thankfully, this week was just about back to normal. Of course, we started testing, so my schedule was not normal, but I am so grateful for the relative peace regular craziness that is a school counselor’s reality. It was so nice to be forced to sit quietly during the test, with only a couple of whispered interruptions, that I can’t even bring myself to get as worked up as usual about testing. (For last year’s rant, see Revenge of Supercounselor). Well, not today, anyway!
Although many things have had to move to the back burner, our plans for National Bullying Prevention Month are simple enough to pull together quickly – there are so many resources available, and most of ours are coming from Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center website. So if you haven’t done anything yet, there’s still time. Or declare your own Bullying Prevention month, and move it to an easier (hah!) time of year for you and your school. Here’s what we’re planning:
Bullying Prevention Units in the Classrooms. In most grades, our bullying prevention units take more than a month to cover, but most of them at least start some time in October. Some grades have a behavior unit that has to be completed before the bullying unit, so we may not get to bullying prevention until November. Oh well! Those kids will at least have had an introduction through our school-wide activities. For info about some of our bullying prevention units and lessons check here, here, here, and here. In my first fifth grade lesson I introduced the ideas of Bullying Prevention Month and Unity Day and asked kids to work together to come up with ideas for how they could help make them successful.
Unity Day. The national Unity Day is October 9, but since that date is in our testing window, our school’s Unity Day will be October 24, when testing is over and an assembly block was already scheduled.
Wear Orange. We’re encouraging everyone to wear something orange, the official color of National Bullying Prevention month on Unity Day. We were able to put together orange t-shirts at a cost of only $6, so many of our students were able to order one. One of our teachers designed them. The drawing of the otter, our school mascot, was done previously by a parent. They’re going to be so cute! We’re going to get orange Tyvek wristbands so everyone will have something orange to wear, even if they don’t have something at home or they forget that day.
Unity Day Assembly. This will include students performing the Unity Dance (hopefully with some teachers joining in flashmob-style), some bullying prevention songs, and, if I can pull it off in time, students performing a version of the book One by Kathryn Otoshi. Lots of students have been writing bullying prevention songs and stories at home, and one is working on a stop-motion video, so we may also have kids share their work at the assembly. Here’s a Unity Dance preview:
Bullying Poster Display. We’ve got lots of bullying posters, which some helpful fifth graders hung on a display board in the lobby during their recess on Friday. While they were working, they were talking about making some posters themselves. We’ll see what they bring in. Here are some free posters you can download and print.
The End of Bullying Begins with You Petition. This online petition is sponsored by Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center. Students “sign” it by entering only their first name, age, and state. To fill out the form they will need to enter a last name (which doesn’t appear), but they can use the school name or mascot in place of real last names. The “signatures” appear pretty quickly after they have entered it, so I plan on having the petition website displayed while students are signing it so they can see their names appear. Here are the flyers I will incorporate into the lesson where we talk about the petition.You can find petition flyers for middle and high school students here.
Unity Banner. Some fifth graders have asked to be in charge of creating a bullying prevention banner that all students will sign. It will be up to those fifth graders to come up with what the banner says. I will probably make time in some of my fifth grade classes for them to work on this and other bullying prevention projects.
Project Connect. Each of our students will share bullying prevention ideas on strips of orange paper, which we will link together in a chain. Last week we had a student who needed to do some reparation for unkind behavior look at the Project Connect directions on the Pacer website, and then cut out some of the strips. He’s now pretty invested in the project, and hopefully will have some good ideas to add to our chain (and use!) We’re not sure yet how we will display the chains, but one student had the idea that we could spell out our school’s initials with them.
Pencil Toppers. A fifth grade student came up with the idea of creating pencil toppers with bullying prevention messages on them. We will be copying the Pencil Topper PDF master onto orange paper (or card stock if I can find some) and fifth graders will cut them out and distribute them to the classrooms for students to use. A few of them are specific to our school (some mention our otter mascot and “CSR,” our Caring, Safe, and Responsible expectations), but most would work for any school, so feel free to use them!
Spookly the Pumpkin Story and Activity. We’re hoping that this will happen school-wide, but it looks good for at least some grades. Buddy classes (one upper and one lower grade class) will get together for the Spookly the Pumpkin digital story, which they will watch on the smartboard. Then they will make individualized pumpkins of any shape or color, which we will hang in the hallways. You can sign up for the Spookly Teacher Toolkit for free, which will allow you to access the Spookly book and, for the month of October, the Spookly movie too.
Unity Walk and Ride to School. Walk and Ride to School is a weekly event in the fall and spring. (Sadly, we don’t have Snowshoe and Ski to School in the winter, although I wish we did!) On Unity Day, the parent safety monitors will be holding bullying prevention signs. We’ll be asking the PTO if they have other creative ideas for that day. (Think I’ll send that email right now!)
Daily Facebook Posts. To include parents in our bullying prevention efforts, I’m making an attempt to post a bullying prevention resource on our school’s Facebook page every day during the month. (Five days in – so far, so good!) I’ll be sharing those posts on the School Counseling by Heart Facebook page as well.
None of these activities (other than the t-shirts) took much time to organize or create. Some of them I haven’t even done yet! And all the resources (other than the wristbands) are free, and do-able with materials you probably already have at school. You can do them too, whenever it works for you!
Here’s to a peaceful, or at least manageable, rest of the year!
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