Why bullying won’t end in schools!

We live in a society fully of bullying! In recent years films have been made about how this affects the learning environments in schools. Bullying is a HUGE problem in schools. It needs to be solved. Many states have enacted legislation that make schools follow specific protocol to follow to prevent bullying. These types of actions are just simple window dressing to a complex problem.

Bullying is present in all aspects of our society. It is modeled everywhere. Schools are not where the bullying starts. It starts in the media with advertising. Imagines that place more value on beauty and size infiltrate our culture starting at birth. The most recent example comes from the CEO of clothing company Abercrombie & Fitch, Michael Jefferies. Below are his comments:


Comments like these create bullies! Since when did size determine cool? If our goal is to rid our culture of bullies why would his comments be acceptable? Thankfully some news outlets are taking notice and writing about it. The media attention is only temporary. In time, the stories will fade and Abercrombie will continue to sell clothing and make profits. “Cool” kids will get to wear the popular gear and others will be picked on for not having A&F clothes in their wardrobe.

This is just one small example of how bullying is allowed to persist in our society. Turn on most televisions today and bullying actions are easy to find modeled for our youth. Most reality programming model bullying. MTV, which used to focus on music, now if flooded with bullies. Just watch Jersey Shore, Teen Mom, Buckwild, etc and observe where many grade school students see behaviors that model bullying. How can schools teach that behaviors are not appropriate, when they are modeled everywhere? Bravo’s real housewife series, takes it to another level. Showing that adults should shout and fight about the smallest issues. Why do we let this modeling of bullying exist so predominately in our media? It can be entertaining, funny and makes for good drama, but do we want our youth following these models?

Currently the very legislators who talk about ending bullying in schools are active bullies. Most states are actively attacking teachers, claiming that they are not effective. Saying teachers need more passion for their students and tearing down the traditional American education system. Attacking teacher pay, benefits, unions job security and tenure rights. Teachers feel they are being bullied by the very body that ask teachers to be the first line of defense against bullies.

Many would argue that we have the freedom of speech and expression in the United States of America. By restricting options on television, we would be creating a society of censorship. No good American wants censorship!! How can we address the prevalence of bullying in our media without censorship? Many networks like MTV and the Cartoon Network have used counter programming to help address bullying. Running specials or week/month-long promotions to address bullies. Is this enough? Isn’t it hypocritical to fight bullying while running programming full of bullying? I feel WE can do better!

I am glad that bullying is making it to the forefront of conversations today. It used to be stated that “Kids will be kids.” We are at least trying to change. More certainly needs to occur before we can rid schools of this problem. Society has to recognize bullying behaviors and work hard to not model them. The following poem by Shane Koyczan speaks volumes to how bullying can affect our youth.

#mschat 5-9-13 Hacking Education

Active chat tonight on how teaches can make changes to the educational structure to enhance learning and engagement in our students. Teachers need to be the leaders of change in schools. We need to be empowered by our administrators to find ideas that work in the classroom. Teacher Educational Programs need to be updated and in-fused into school districts to help foster this type of change. 

The archive of the chat is found here: http://storify.com/ToddBloch/mschat-5-9-13-hacking-education

Hacking School #mschat

This week’s topic for #mschat is “hacking school!” Thursday May 9 at 8 pm ET.

From John T Spencer from here
The idea is not mine. Nicholas Provenzano, exposed me to the idea when he shared his visual writing prompts for blogging during the MACUL conference in March. Nick shared how he used this prompt with his high school English students. I felt it was a great way to hear the students voice.
Recently, I used the prompt with one of my classes. My middle school students loved the idea of “hacking” school. I shared my ideas about having flexible classrooms, 1:1 technology for students and more individualized instruction. My students took to blogging. I was anxious for the results.
Few of my middle school students took my lead for finding better ways to learn. Most students focused on different kinds of changes. Many wanted different food in the cafeteria. I totally agree here, but the food they desired to replace “school food” contained less nutritional content. Many wanted Taco Bell or McDonald’s to come in an cater. Some students desired vending machines with “pop and candy”. Change is needed for sure, more instruction in nutrition will be coming shortly.
As I moved past the “food changes”. Many post desired a change in the dress code, to no code at all. I asked, “What you want people showing up in underwear?” “NO!!” was the quick reply but students felt that nobody should control what they wear. Our school has a pretty lax dress code. I guess teachers need to share dress standards for different work environments.
Other students voiced their desire for a shorter school year, stating that more learning would occur. How this would be accomplished was not share. As I keep searching for hacks that would improve learning, I started to feel despair. Did my student feel their learning environments were satisfactory in our school? I feel changes could be made to improve learning, shouldn’t they?
As I dug deeper, I found specks of brilliance . One student wrote, “Schedules need to be flexible so student can choose the class order and lunch time based on desire and need.” Now that makes sense, why can’t it occur? Attendance and class size might be limiting factors but with work it can occur. Another talked about allowing students to use their technology for learning with a WiFi network. A student was clearly articulating a BYOD policy.
My students seemed focused on simple rule changes that might not make our school a better learning environment. Student voice is important to listen to when making changes. I feel that listening to it can also show educators knowledge deficits that need to be addressed in our students.
Teachers have seen education from many angles.I hope that by chatting with middle school educators about how to change schools. I can present a complete list of ideas before conquering this assignment with my students again.
If you have ideas about how to change schools to create better learning environments, please join #mschat on Thursday.

Layers of Atmosphere R.A.F.T. Writing

As we continue the study of weather in my classroom, Last week my students tackled the following assignment:

Learning Target: Understand layers of the atmosphere by writing a first person narrative.

R.A.F.T. Writing Atmosphere

R: Role– An experienced Space Shuttle Astronaut

A: Audience– The newbie on the flight

F: Format– Narrative

T: Topic – Describing what the newbie is seeing out the window as the space shuttle flies up through the layers of our atmosphere.

Assignment: You are to use the RAFT writing strategy to describe layers of the atmosphere. Give a vivid account of what of the layers of the atmosphere look like as you pass through them. Below is a checklist of what must be included in your descriptive  narrative.

  1. 4 –layers of the atmosphere
  2. At least 3– details about each layer
    1. Density
    2. Temperature
    3. Air pressure
    4. Composition
    5. Interaction with solar radiation
    6. Weather

3. 1 item you might see out the window in each layer

4.  At least 10 Content area words

5.Paragraph structure

6. Good transitions.

I felt this was a good way to have the students show their understanding in a creative way. I did not want the student just to recite the information found on websites or the textbook. We spend 3 class periods going over the layers of the atmosphere and planned on using this writing assignment as an assessment to check for understanding. I knew this image was stuck in many of my students heads:

layers-of-atmosphere-2-1cbdrpg.jpg (249×202)

After giving the assignment, I imagined reading some creative stories, lacking scientific details. (Know that is what typically happens on creative assignments.) Instead, I read dry regurgitation after regurgitation of atmospheric facts. I was surprised at the lack of creativity from my class as a whole. A few shining examples showed up here and there. Many skipped over the Role and Audience aspects of the assignment altogether. After spending two evenings frustrated with the results, I asked myself what went wrong? I returned to my classroom and represented the assignment. Asking why many had difficulty?

The response was obvious when given. “No mentor text” or ” I didn’t know what to do without an example”. Opps! It was on me. The teacher changed how the writing lessons works and students fell flat on their faces. All of the writing assignments for the weather unit, I had utilized a “mentor” text  to assist the students in creating high quality work. Up until this R.A.F.T. assignment, the majority of my students were writing with success. Now, in the absence the majority of students were having difficulty. After this lesson, I ask myself a few questions:

DO middle school students need mentor texts?

If mentor texts lead to success, should they always be used?

Are mentor texts a tool for success or give too much assistance with developing high quality writing?

I don’t have the answers, but it was very eye opening when looking at this lesson.