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Bullying. Jodee Blanco. Somebody does understand.
     
 
 
                 Survival Tips for Students

                 Survival Tips for Parents

                 Survival Tips for Educators

                 Tips for Adult Survivors

                 Advice Excerpted from
                 Please Stop Laughing
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                 Resources

 
 


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BULLYING IN THE CLASSROOM: SURVIVAL TIPS FOR TEACHERS

I’ve met so many teachers just like you--hard-working, dedicated professionals, people who care deeply about giving their students the academic tools to succeed and prosper. I applaud all of you. I understand first-hand how difficult a classroom can be. Sometimes, there are more hidden landmines in the halls of a school than in the fields of a war torn country.

I can’t tell you how much I respect each of you for your patience, commitment, and courage. I know there are probably moments when you feel frustrated and helpless. What too many parents and students tend to forget is that teachers are human, too. They’re far from indifferent to the pain and hurt they witness all too often in the classroom. I remember my teachers. Each of them did their best and I thank them for that. But there were only a few who I can honestly say made me who I am, who filled me with pride and purpose, whose words, though spoken years ago still resonate with me today. Why did only a few make such a difference, even though all of them put so much heart into teaching my fellow classmates and I?

They realized that school wasn’t just a place for academic lessons, and that ultimately, it would be the life lessons students learned at school that they would carry most into adulthood. These were the teachers who taught me as much about compassion and strength as they did quadratic equations, who showed me the path to self-respect as eagerly and effectively as they pointed out the path to the War of 1812 or the road to the industrial revolution.

Why am I telling you this? Because the greatest life challenge every child faces the moment they board the school bus is the need to fit in. I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. Kids need to be accepted by their peers the way you or I need food and oxygen to survive. But fitting in is not without its perils. You’ve seen it a million times. One of your students is branded the outcast by the cool crowd. Perhaps it’s the chubby kid with glasses, or the shy geek who sits at the back of the class. Maybe it’s even a gifted student, someone who’s so far beyond her years that she inadvertently alienates her classmates.

You watch as these sad, lonely misfits get picked on, laughed at, and tormented day after day by the popular crowd. You’ve tried everything to help. You’ve sat down with the dean, the principal, the school counselor—to no avail. You’ve talked with the parents of the victims, the parents of the bullies. You’ve told the victims that they should ignore the teasing, that they were being abused because the other kids were jealous of them. Yet, despite all your efforts, you can’t stop the abuse…or the pain.

So, now, you find yourself on this website, hoping that maybe you’ll get the answers you’re looking for, or at least, comfort and validation.

I’m so glad you’re here. I can help you. I know precisely what the outcasts in your classroom are going through. From 5th grade through my senior year of High School, I lived in fear. I was different than the other kids at school. I couldn’t do the things you have to do to be considered cool. I didn’t want to make fun of the special ed students, humiliate my teachers, or smoke cigarettes in the bathroom. If I saw someone being made fun of, I would stand up for them. Great qualities to have when you’re an adult. Not so great when you’re a kid. As a result, every day of school was a living, breathing hell. The popular kids physically beat me, laughed at me, teased me—their cruelty knew no bounds. In my New York Times best-selling memoir PLEASE STOP LAUGHING AT ME…, I describe what I went through and how I survived it. It wasn’t easy reliving my past, but I’ve been helping thousands of kids, parents and teachers since the book’s release, and that makes it all worth it.

Now, I want to try and help you. Outlined below is advice that I share with teachers and educators at workshops and speeches I give at schools throughout the United States. This advice isn’t based on academic knowledge. I’m not a psychologist or mental health professional. What I am is a SURVIVOR. I remember how my teachers responded to my pain and circumstances. I remember the initiatives they took that were effective and why, and those that didn’t work and why. I wish when I was going through it all, there would have been someone like me back then telling my teachers all those years ago what I’m telling you right now. I give you the benefit of my experience. I hope that somewhere in my observations, you discover some of the insights and answers you seek.

 
If there is a situation occurring in your classroom, don’t jump in unless there is something physical happening. Instead, create a distraction that includes the target, such as, “Oh, I need help with the erasers. John, can you help me?” Be careful not to appear as if you are choosing the target to be “teacher’s pet.” That will only make them even more of a target.

Be an adult friend to both the target and the bully - each for different reasons. This doesn’t mean to dish advice. What I mean is to be sure that they feel listened to and loved. Then you may offer suggestions. Some questions that you could ask to begin the conversation with the bully are: Are your struggling with anything right now? Is there something going on at home? You could ask the target if they’ve shared any of this with their parents or counselor, and then encourage them to do so.

Students targeted as victims of bullying know that if they retaliate physically, the bully will pretend to be the victim and the responsible adults can sometimes be fooled into believing that the target is the bully and the bully is the target. The (real) target is then punished by the teacher as the bully looks on, enjoying every moment. Once the teachers turn their backs, the bully starts in on their target again.

Provide empathy training for both the students and the parents. Encourage your administration to invest in this valuable tool. I would be honored to visit your school to teach this valuable technique.

When you’re dealing with parents, be calm, even if they’re not. Before you say anything, listen to them. Before that, listen, really listen to their child – your student. Take notes during every conversation. Be empathetic – place yourself in everyone’s shoes before you respond. Remember, you are the only one who sees all sides of any given classroom situation.

Take the time to learn about all of the different community programs in your area. Work with the school’s counseling center to recommend after-school activities to the parent. By creating another social outlet for the student, they have the opportunity to make new friends and become more confident. A confident child is harder to bully. The parents will be grateful, because they often do not have the time to look into everything that is available to them. It also shows that you have a personal interest in their child. To make this easier, divide the task of learning about the community programs among the teachers.

If school administrators fail to take action or offer support in your quest to rid your classroom, maybe there is nothing more that you can say. Please, show them this site. I am a survivor. I’ve lived through eight straight years of constant physical and emotional abuse that landed me in the hospital on several occasions. My book on the subject is the first by a victim, and it went straight to the New York Times best-seller list. I understand. I’ve prepared this site, as well as designed seminars and workshops for school staff, students, and parents. I would welcome the opportunity to come and spend the day/evening at your school.

Start a PLEASE STOP LAUGHING AT ME… support group.

 
Before concluding, let me leave you with something. It is often difficult to be honest with ourselves. I have assembled a list of characteristics that schools that are proactive and reactive to bullying contain. Go through the list, and ask yourself the following questions Which category does your school fall under? If it’s reactive, now is the time to take a leadership position and change that.

Proactive schools:

1. Recognize and deal with such instances immediately, firmly, and fairly.

2. Recognize the feelings of the victim. Assures that students and parents are aware of state and local laws regarding bullying and violence.

3. Practice compassion for the bully and the victim, realizing both need love and support for healing to begin.

4. Work with parents, teachers and students, making all three vital groups aware of the anti-bullying policies and procedures in the school.

5. Emphasize communication between counselors and students and work with counselors and students to help them reach students in need effectively and efficiently.

Reactive schools:
1. Deny that bullying exists.

2. Ignore it altogether.

3. Try to justify it.

4. Rationalize it.

5. Handle it inappropriately.

6. Sweep it under the rug.

7. Blame the victim of bullying.

8. Blame the parents of the victim of bullying.

9. Make lots of impressive noises but take no substantive action.

10. Spend large amounts of taxpayer's money on lawyers to fight legal actions for their negligence. The primary objective is to protect the school against bad publicity.

For as long as you teach, there will always be bullies and there will always be targets. I encourage you to hold your students accountable for each action they take, and for every word that comes out of their mouths. Be accountable for yourself and your own words and deeds. Students are watching you closer than you think, and they do listen and remember even the most insignificant commentS.

I also encourage you to check out the survival page on this website. It provides contact information on organizations that specialize in anti-bullying strategies and solutions.

With warmest regards,
Jodee Blanco
jodee@jodeeblanco.com