Shawna Stueck teaches grades Kindergarten through second grade at Wisconsin Virtual Academy (WIVA).
Every October, elementary schools around the country shift their focus from the changing seasons, fall colors, and ripe pumpkins to include a more serious topic—bullying. Our desired outcome is to help students develop into a community of learners with increased awareness of the significant impact of bullying, provide them with ways in which they can be a positive peer, and arm them with the steps that they can take to end bullying.
At Wisconsin Virtual Academy (WIVA), although our students aren’t all attending school in the same classroom or brick and mortar school setting, this topic is front and center. Earlier this month, I sent out a survey to my homeroom students and families regarding their understanding and experiences with bullying. The data that I received from those responses indicated 75 % of my students had previously attended a brick and mortar school before enrolling at WIVA. Of that group, 27% said they experienced bullying.
While it is not uncommon for WIVA teachers to hear about previous accounts of bullying, it is still dismaying that these experiences have become so common. Luckily, WIVA is a safe haven for these students to learn. However, even in today’s digital world, we cannot ignore the threat cyber bullying poses in the online schooling environment. Therefore, it is critical we address all forms of bullying—including online bullying—and provide students not only with expectations for positive and appropriate behavior, but with resources for what to do if they experience physical, emotional, or cyber bullying in their communities and online.
In K-2, where I teach, we used our Community Learning Circles (CLC) to discuss National Bullying Awareness Month with our students, and their learning coaches. Throughout the month, we watched a Brain Pop Jr. video; looked at potential bullying scenarios; and held discussions on topics like:
- What is bullying?
- What does it look like?
- How does bullying make people feel?
- When is it bullying and when is it joking around?
- What should you do about a bully?
The discussions were amazing!
In my kindergarten CLC, students agreed bullying actions include the following:
- Acts that are done on purpose,
- Acts that hurt someone,
- Acts that continue due to difficulty in making the bully stop.
They also shared further about the topic by creating the following list:
In 2nd grade CLC, Mrs. Chodera also focused on bullying prevention by opening up a class chat to discuss the topic. While our 2nd grade students presented many of the same responses to what bullying is and what can be done to stop bullying that our kindergarteners did, they went deeper with how bullying makes people feel. In addition to feelings such as sad, angry, hurt and scared, some students shared feelings such as “embarrassed” and “worthless.” As difficult as it was to hear these sentiments, it was an important opportunity for our learning community to acknowledge the validity of these heartbreaking feelings and support these young learners in learning strategies to protect themselves, others, and to also how to seek help.
Through the Community Learning Circle classes this month, our students not only learned about bullying, but through these activities and deeper discussions, they got to learn more about the power of kindness and developed their own positive community of learners. The benefits of these moments are hard to capture with data, but can easily be seen and heard through the supportive comments and encouraging words shared in our online classes. Just another reason why I love teaching Kindergarten through second grade at Wisconsin Virtual Academy!