Many of my students sought online schooling as a sort of escape from the daily bullying and anxiety faced in a traditional brick-and-mortar school setting. When I first started teaching at virtual school, I expected this to be the case and was eager to provide an educational setting proactive at bullying prevention. Since starting at Insight Schools of Kansas (ISKS), I’ve written several blogs and articles outlining how we, as a virtual school, provide a safe environment, yet allow the social needs of our students to be met using breathable, yet monitored socialization opportunities.
One such example of how ISKS strives to not only minimize bullying but drive it to extinction is our annual anti-bullying assemblies. This year’s was held just last month by our fabulous family resource coordinator, Elicia Harrison. She held sessions for middle school and high school students alike in order to reach all of our students in an effort to show that bullies should not limit success or confidence.
“I liked this assembly because I didn’t focus on the bully, the hurt, and the pain; instead I focused on how special these kids are and how talented they are,” Elicia reflects. “I wanted them to know they are awesome because it is in them to be that way. I have seen their talents and gifts. They don’t have to be what other says they are. We are all survivors because we are here.”
As a veteran middle school health teacher, I was no stranger to the impacts and effects of bullying. In fact, bullying was one of the concepts covered in my health class. While asking students not to elaborate on specifics, they participated in activities where they shared their own personal bullying experiences: Had they been bullied before? Had they tried to stop a bully?
There were always students eager to share that they had, in fact, been bullied. Some students were strong and came right out with it, whereas others had to build up their courage by seeing how much support their peers were willing to pour out to them in order to feel comfortable confessing. I am so proud of how my students supported each other. Even students who stated that they had never been bullied rallied around the students who had.
“I told our students that they are lovable, capable, special, and unique,” Elicia said. She couldn’t have said it better – each of our students is different, but in the best way possible and we are striving to relay their potential to them.
Elicia told the students, “Offense will come. Nevertheless, we have to walk in courage. We have to guard our hearts and minds, and keep it moving in spite of the offenses. There are creeps in the world. Haters will hate, that’s what they do.” She explained that bullies and their victims are, in reality, in the same boat as far as being a victim. She enlightened students with the psychology of the bully and why they do what they do.
We provide many ways for students to share their thoughts, feelings, and experiences with bullies. This helps victims heal and helps those who haven’t experienced it to sympathize. In addition, it allows those who have picked on others in the past to see the other side of things and, we hope, prevent that behavior in the future. Although not better and not worse, our different environment provides a safe place for students who were bullied in a traditional school setting.