Sunday, October 21, 2012

Is That Bullying?

I was recently talking to our behavior specialist about my theory that you could incorporate dog training techniques into classroom and behavior management. She didn't laugh, in fact she agreed. We discussed the idea that classroom are much like packs. You have the dominant dogs as well as the submissives, that much like a pack there will be a student (or students) fighting for their role as alpha (much to the dismay of the teacher.)

In a pack dogs are looking to understand where they fit, similar to our students. Where do they sit at lunch? Who do they hang out with? In a group who is the leader and who are the followers?  Watching our students interact with each other isn't too much different from watching a group of dogs get together, except there is no name calling.

What does this have to do with bullying? I can't tell you how many times I get a "bullying" report from a parent or student that is actually not bullying. The most common scenario is this:
Three girls: Girl A is friends with Girl B and Girl C, but Girl B and Girl C do not get along. So Girl A and B get along fine, Girl A and C get along fine, but B and C not so much. This means when all three get together there are fireworks. This normally means Girl A gets put in the middle, trying to figure out her role. Should she be a peacemaker and encourage everyone to "just get along?" How should she divide her time? If she doesn't divide it equal an encore of fireworks. Similar Girls B and C are fighting for her attention, each one trying to dominate.

This is not bullying, and yet I get the "bullying report" weekly. So right now I am working with my fourth grade students to discuss what is bullying and what is simply students trying to work out group dynamics.

To tackle this issue I came up with a three part plan.

First, I am going into the classroom to do a seminar with my students on "what is bullying and what is not?" I gave them a list of scenarios and asked them to discuss as small and then large group. (I wish I had a video of this discussion because it was unbelievable- also I found my alpha, a young man who would "interrupt" and assert his dominance by talking over everyone and if they tried to stop him he just got louder.)

I put the survey on my website so parents and students in other grades coud take it together.

 Next,  I  sent home follow up information with my students to share with their parents.

Lastly, I will host a parent workshop on bullying. I am asking one of our counselors/school psychologists who has received Olweus training to be our speaker.

Bullying is  a serious issue, but in my school it's a buzz word that is being overused. I am hoping my three part plan will help my students understand what bullying really is.

On a side note, I hung out with the best dog ever this weekend. Sweet, calm, loves children, well behaved and well mannered. His name is Mike and some might say he is a bully breed. I saw he is a sweet heart breed. He also needs a home! If you or anyone you know want to adopt this handsome man please contact Nashville Pittie.

Can your body language determine how you feel?

Today I did a Socratic Seminar on body language. I asked the students three questions:

Can your body language change how you feel?
Can changing your body language give you more pride?
How does body language impact bullying?

The topic of body language has come up a lot not in my recent dog training. The Doggie Lama has given many good words of wisdom about believing what I say and not just changing my tone of voice. In essence just because I say it with a deeper, louder tone doesn't mean Brooklyn is going to respond unless I mean it; unless I set the expectation that I won't accept anything less than what I want.

I've been trying to practice this with her, so I have been trying to silently think about what I want and then say it with purpose. Todd can give commands with a simple whisper, I am not even close to that, but I am working on it. The idea that if you truly believe in what you are saying, your body language will change, your posture will change, and thus increasing the likely hood that your expectations are going to be met (thus increasing your pride) is a complex one that I threw at my sixth graders, but it was amazing.

I loved how they brought it back to bullying. That telling a bully to stop was much more likely to be successful if you meant it, and didn't just say the words, because a real bully could read your body language. What do you think? What impact does body language have on your life? How does it shape who you are?

Here is the Ted Talk that we did our seminar around:

This is Brooklyn sitting outside. I didn't tell her to stay I just gave her the "I mean it look!" and it worked =)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Hello again

and.....we're back.

It's been forever since I blogged and let me tell you why- my house literally fell apart. Seven leaks since May and for over a month I wasn't able to live at home. I have been beyond stressed and I am sad to say that other parts of my personal and professional life took at hit.

When I finally came up for air I realized that although I spent many months cursing and yelling about life I did learn a few things along the way.

1) I wouldn't have made it without my friends and my colleagues. Really! They banned together to help  support me emotional and financially  I crashed on their couches, they offered to let me shower in their homes, they let me drop off my dog so she could be out of the house, they didn't yell at me when I made mistakes at work or even got behind, they let me use their scanners so I could send pages upon pages of documentation to insurance companies and lawyers, they were and still are my constant support and safety net. When we are in school and we learn that everyone has basic needs to feel good- shelter, food, etc. I think we forget just how important the connection with others is. Some of the students I see that are struggling the worst are those students with poor peer interactions, that don't know how to develop these relationships, or don't have them. This experience has made me focus more on helping give these students one of their basic needs.

2) You just can't focus when life sucks. There have been days I entered my office and stared a wall for the first five minutes. One day I drove to work and turned into the wrong lane of traffic because I was in the middle of a panic attack. You can't think about anything else that the crisis when you are in one. You just can't and if you aren't thinking about it you are shutting down. So how can we ask our students to care about spelling or reading if their life just plain sucks right now?

3) Counselors needs counselors. In the middle of the madness I started having panic attacks again. One day they were so bad I called the Guidance Center director and said "help." It's brave to ask for help and I think it takes a lot of courage for a counselor to say "hey I need counseling", but I did. In the past I have gone to sessions and thought "oh please I know this game or what are you going to teach me that I don't know?" I wonder if doctors feel this way when they go to the doctor? Anyway I LOVE my new counselor. I stopped, I listened, I learned. I learned how to be a better counselor simply by changing the tone in my voice. She whispers, I need to whisper more. She put things in perpective. She used basic empathy statements that won me over even though I knew her game.  Most importantly she reminded me that I don't have to be perfect, that I have to learn to forgive myself for not being perfect. This is huge because I work with a student body of perfectionists and for the first time I feel like I gained insight into their world of being control freaks (I am more like these kiddos than I thought.)

4) You don't want to hear anyone say this must be happening for a reason. Who cares what the reason is, I didn't like going through this ordeal. I am sure there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but when you  are in the tunnel it's dark. Its' like asking me if I backed up when my computer crashed- "No, I did not, just shut up."

5) We all regress. We all relapse. Part of being a control freak means I always want things to go the way I see them in my head. When they don't end up neat and tidy like that I feel out of control and my world collapses. I grasp at anything I can to try to fix what I think is going wrong and most of the time the grasping, the desperation to say the right thing or do the right thing, leads to more instability and in my mind failure. Student behavior won't magically change over night, just like an alcoholic isn't going to quit on Monday cold turkey and never drink or think of drinking again. Healing is a roller coaster ride and we need to give ourselves permission to have highs and lows along the way.

oh and of course Brooklyn helped me through: