Monday, July 7, 2014

Parent, Teacher...Protector?

Boo-boos that need a Band-Aid?  Check, I've got that covered.  Hurts that need a "mommy hug or kiss" to make it all better?  Check, I've got that covered too!  How to handle the following conversation, not so much...  One day not long before the school year let out I went to pick my daughter up from preschool only to find her sitting alone, trying not to cry, while the other little girls were all playing.  I asked her what was wrong and she said "mommy, they said they don't want to play with me and I need to go away".  She is a five year old, beautiful, sweet, little girl and at that moment my heart broke.  Thinking back on it now brings tears to my eyes.  I can protect her from the physical, make boo-boos go away with the magic of a Band-Aid and a kiss.  But, I cannot make other little girls be nice.  I can't protect her from the emotional hurts that potentially await her when she starts Kindergarten this fall.  That terrifies me. 

As a teacher at the secondary level I can and do intervene when I see bullying.  We have a support system in place and a zero tolerance policy.  I have spent years working to make sure that it doesn't happen in my classroom and as a school we work so hard to make sure that if it happens in the our building that there are outlets, support systems and interventions to stop it.  But as a parent, I don't have that same access.  She will be out of my sight, my reach, my "protection" all day, five days a week.  While I know that she is going to an excellent school, with a great reputation for stopping bullying in it's tracks, I also know that as parent I have to prepare her.  I have to give her tools to combat what she is already encountering.

So, I did what all people do and I started researching how I could give her the tools to not only face what she *may* encounter, but also how to overcome it and not let it hurt her like that moment in preschool did.  I found an absolutely awesome series of blogs by a website named "A Mighty Girl" (http://www.amightygirl.com). 
 
The first post is entitled ""The End of Bullying Begins With Me": Bullying Prevention Books for Young Mighty Girls" and has excellent books and resources for young girls (and I'm sure they would work for young boys too!) that begin the conversation about feelings, bullying and the result.  The post is broken down into "Another Person’s Shoes: Teaching Empathy" which features books about how other people are feeling, that they may feel the same way and that it's okay to be different.  It goes on to a section entitled "Beginning With Me: Dealing With Bullies" which showcases books about how face bullying, how to stop bullying and how to not let it stop you.  The post ends with "Additional Recommended Resources" which features links to other parts of the site and other types of books.  I spent a great deal of time with going through these sources and picked a few of them up to spend some time reading during our story time daily! 

From a teacher's standpoint I was quite interested in the second part of the series "Taking a Stand Against Bullying: Bullying Prevention Books for Tweens and Teens" (and the third  which I will address in just a minute!)  This entries in this part of the series features books that I think would be excellent to pick up and keep in my classroom for when I have students come to me with bullying problems or for when I notice them myself.  It features two types of books; ones about fictional bullies and also non-fiction books about how to deal with bullies.  In the first section "Mean Girls: Fictional Bullies" I found books that I think would greatly appeal to some of my students who need to read about others situations without it being "too real".  In the second section "Taking A Stand: Non-Fiction About Bullying" I found some wonderful workbooks and implementation types of resources that I am going to recommend to our counseling department!  I think that they would find them very useful for those students who come to them and need constructive ways to address the problems.

I spent a great deal of time on the last post from both a parent and teacher standpoint.  The last post in the series is "Leading the Way: Bullying Prevention Books for Parents and Educators"  and it is broken down into three phenomenal areas.  The first, "It Starts Young: Bullying in Preschool and Elementary School" has great resources for both parents and teachers of our youngest children.  (One I already ordered is " Little Girls Can Be Mean: Four Steps to Bully-Proof Girls in the Early Grades").  The second area, "Social Drama: Bullying Among Tweens and Teens" helps parents and educators to carry the message on to the next level.  It features books to keep the conversation going when young girls really start to stop talking to the adults around them and are more influenced by their peers.  The last area, "New Dimensions of Bullying: Cyberbullying and Bullying Adults" has some amazing resources to address how bullying is being taken to the next level and how to shut it down.   

While I know that books alone will not solve the problem, at least they will help me to feel less helpless.  If I can arm my daughter and my son with the tools necessary to be strong against what they face, maybe next time my daughter won't feel so alone.  Maybe next time she'll have the words to speak back or the strength to go to her teacher.  By the way, I had a conversation with her preschool teacher after this incident.  Her teacher said that she is working hard to address these issues.  I forwarded the above blogs to her and she is going to order some of the books for her classroom library.  Every step helps.

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